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Copyright and the human right to protection of authorship

23 March, 2015

The UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights has submitted a report on ‘Copyright policy and the right to science and culture’. The report states that copyright laws and international treaties in the present form are insufficient to protect the human right to protection of authorship. The report calls for a rethink on the accepted ideas that protecting economic interests of IP creators and moral rights adequately preserve and encourage creativity. It argues that unlike copyrights, the human right to protection of authorship is non-transferable, grounded on the concept of human dignity, and may be claimed only by the human creator and even when an author sells their copyright interest to a corporate publisher or distributer, the right to protection of authorship remains with the human author(s).

From the perspective of human rights, the report observes that corporate rightholders might have better bargaining power and it is important that artists retain right to reclaim copyright interests they have transferred after a set number of years. On exceptions and limitations the report states that they often support creators’ material interests by offering opportunities for statutory licensing income or the possibility of relying in part on the work of other artistes in a new work or performance. It calls for exempting religious services, school performances, public festivals and other not-for-profit usages from securing licences to perform musical or dramatic works. Another area of concern raised in the report is recognising and protecting the rights of indigenous people. The report also advocates looking into the special needs of disadvantaged people by bringing uniform legislation in different countries to ensure access and addressing the vastly unequal distribution of published literary works across languages.
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