on the author:
Joost Smiers is director of the Centre of Research of the Utrecht
School of the Arts, the Netherlands, and visiting professor
at the Department of World Arts and Cultures at the UCLA, Los
Angeles. His last book is Rough Weather. Essays on the Social
and Cultural Conditions for the Arts in Europe in the 1990s
(published in Dutch and in French). His present research is
on the consequences of world free trade, globalization, and
new communication technologies for the arts in different parts
of the world.
The artist too
should have a chance to make a living from his or her work. Therefore
we should have a strong enforcement of the collection of copyrights
or authors rights (the European concept) (2). This sounds reasonable.
may wonder whether the philosophy of the intellectual property system,
which should provide artists an income, works out as reasonable
as it looks like. Moreover, one must consider seriously the question
whether the existing system of copyright or authors rights does
still work and can work any longer. This article will deal with
four questions which all together show that there is arising a problem
for artists, for cultural life in third world countries, and for
the public domain which deserves the unhindered access to the cultural
heritage of the past and the present.
there is the phenomenon of large scale piracy which undermines the
proper working of the system. One may doubt whether even fierce
hunting on pirates ever may be successful in a world in which uncontrolled
trade and deregulation are the norm. Isn't this world an eldorado
for people who try to evade the scarce laws which are left over?
artists and cultural enterprises in poor and so called less developed
countries will nearly not get benefits from authors rights, not
now and unlikely even in the future, and that is the case for a
variety of reasons which will be discussed later in this article.
it is not sure that artists will continue to be the main benefitors
of the system of intellectual property rights which originally was
meant to give them a fair remuneration for their creations. It will
happen more and more everywhere in the world that artists will get
some money for their work as may be hoped, but they have to sell
their rights to more or less big corporations or other kind of holders
the seemingly absolute character of the concept of intellectual
property rights should be discussed just at the moment in which
we see that corporations are taking rights on all which may give
them a profit. However, who is so original that he or she may claim
to have created or invented something out of nothing? And who is
so arrogant to think that there is only a private interest to be
protected in the resort of intellectual and creative activities
of human beings and that the public interest, the common good may
property rights are big business at the turn of the century. Where
there are winners at the commercial front there must be loosers
as well. Who are they? To name a few, we must think of third world
countries, artists, and the public interest. While private property
interests are so dominant it will be a hell of a work to ask attention
for other legitimate interests concerning the domain of the human
intellectual and creative activities.
In the organized
world of copyrights piracy seems the only big problem to solve.
Maybe it can't be solved at all and maybe it is a minor problem
compared to the question whether the creative and intellectual forthbringing
in the world can be assured if intellectual and creative activities
continue to be seen as objects for profit only.
what to do?