Yes, we’ve seen lots of folks using COVID-19 to push their specific agendas forward, but this one is just bizarre. UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is an organization that is supposed to be focused on developing education and culture around the globe. From any objective standpoint, you’d think it would be in favor of things like more open licensing and sharing of culture, but, in practice, the organization has long been hijacked by copyright maximalist interests. Almost exactly a decade ago, we were perplexed at the organization’s decision to launch an anti-piracy organization. After all, “piracy” (or sharing of culture) is actually how culture and ideas frequently spread in the developing countries where UNESCO focuses.
So, I guess it isn’t so surprising a decade later that UNESCO is using COVID-19 to float the idea of an eternal copyright. I only wish I was kidding:
We’ve started the conversation, now we count on you to join it.
— UNESCO (@UNESCO) April 19, 2020
They phrase this as “just started the conversation,” but that’s a trollish setup for a terrible, terrible idea. In case you can’t see the video, it’s electronic music creator Jean-Michel Jarre suggesting eternal copyright as a way to support future artists:
Why not going to the other way around, and to create the concept of eternal copyright. And I mean by this that after a certain period of time, the rights of movies, of music, of everything, would go to a global fund to help artists, and especially artists in emerging countries.
First, we can all agree that helping to enable and support artists in emerging countries is a good general idea. I’ve seen a former RIAA executive screaming about how everyone criticizing this idea is showing their true colors in how they don’t want to support artists. But that’s just silly. The criticism of this idea is that it doesn’t “support” artists at all, and will almost certainly make creativity and supporting artists more difficult. And that’s because art and creativity has always relied on building upon the works of those who came before — and locking up everything for eternity would make that cost prohibitive for all but the wealthiest of creators. Indeed, the idea that we need copyright and copyright alone to support artists shows (yet again) just how uncreative the people who claim to support copyright can be.
Can you imagine – every time s omeone read your email, you asked them for $0,10 because that email is your copyright? What a complete scam