Free con­tent dur­ing pan­demic threatems cul­tural in­dus­tries: UN

Kuwait Times - - Lifestyle Features -

Books, films, con­certs: free con­tent has been spread­ing al­most as fast as the coro­n­avirus, mak­ing life eas­ier for those shel­ter­ing from the pan­demic, but also threat­en­ing al­ready frag­ile cul­tural in­dus­tries, the UN warned Tues­day. As coun­tries around the world have im­posed strict phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing mea­sures to halt the spread of the novel coro­n­avirus — can­celling events, ban­ning pub­lic gath­er­ings, and ask­ing bil­lions of peo­ple to stay home — ac­cess to free cul­tural con­tent on­line has be­come om­nipresent.

While some con­tent cre­ators have them­selves opted to make their artis­tic prod­ucts avail­able, Fran­cis Gurry, the head of the UN’s World In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Or­ga­ni­za­tion, voiced con­cern that nu­mer­ous re­quests are com­ing in for IP “ex­cep­tions... for the cul­tural sec­tor to dis­re­gard copy­right”. WIPO’s IP rules do per­mit ex­cep­tions to cul­tural copy­right to fa­cil­i­tate ac­cess to books, pub­li­ca­tions and other cre­ative con­tent in cer­tain spe­cific cir­cum­stance and un­der cer­tain con­di­tions. But in an in­ter­view with AFP, Gurry ques­tioned whether it was jus­ti­fied to use the on­go­ing pan­demic, which has killed more than 210,000 peo­ple world­wide, as an ex­cuse to make en­tire mu­seum ex­hibits, op­eras, bal­lets, con­certs and pub­li­ca­tions avail­able to the pub­lic at no cost.

‘Deep dis­tress’

“We should be much more mea­sured,” he said, point­ing out that such moves were dra­mat­i­cally slash­ing the in­come of many pro­fes­sion­als in an al­ready frag­ile sec­tor. “To cast off a copy­right, you have to prove that there is a spe­cial need,” he said. “I do not re­ally see ev­i­dence of a prob­lem ac­cess­ing con­tent” in the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, he said, point­ing out that it was still pos­si­ble to pur­chase cul­tural goods on­line, like books and mu­sic. At the same time, he said, con­tent cre­ators have been hard-hit by the cri­sis. Many in the field had com­pletely lost their rev­enue streams, Gurry warned, point­ing for in­stance to film pro­duc­tion, which has all but ground to a halt, where hun­dreds of peo­ple are usu­ally in­volved in mak­ing a sin­gle movie. “It is hard to quan­tify the con­se­quences as this is hap­pen­ing, but the sec­tor is in deep dis­tress,” he said.—AFP

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