IPA: 'Freedom of expression linked to copyright'

IPA: 'Freedom of expression linked to copyright'

A new IPA report suggests that the poor state of creative industries and of freedom of expression in developing countries is directly linked to the absence of copyright protection.

IPA secretary general Jens Bammel said: "Throughout history, copyright has served as an incentive for human ingenuity by turning creativity into an industry, providing authors with advances that enable them to invest their time into writing. We have published this report to highlight the tensions created within the creative economy, and within wider society, whenever copyright is vulnerable." 

Several authors and publishers from developing countries are also interviewed in the report. Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany said: "We have a big hole in our copyright system, not just in Egypt but across the Arab world. Writing is a tough, hard profession, and the real danger is that in the absence of proper copyright protection, people will simply stop writing. Everyone will lose as a result."

Argentinian publisher Ana Maria Cabanellas said that in Latin America "a big problem is that pirated books are sold in bookshops. Their good quality makes it difficult or impossible to distinguish them from legal copies."

Nigerian publisher Otunba Lawal-Solarin said that in Africa, "the whole intellectual property sphere is dominated by pervasive piracy” and that low court sentences for copyright infringements (“typically a $25 fine”) are “devastating the publishing industry”. 

Bammel called it a “tragedy” that piracy means “very few African writers can support themselves from royalties”. He continued: “Their livelihoods depend on their success abroad. This in turn distorts African literature. Whereas the reality of the African experience is now urban, the Western taste for lions-and-savannah influences which author is successful."

William Nygaard, the former c.e.o of publishing house Aschehoug and current chairman of Norwegian Broadcasting and president of Norwegian PEN who published the Norwegian edition of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and was shot as a result, is also interviewed in the report, as is Belarusian publisher and bookseller Ihar Lohvinau. Lohvinau’s publishing licence was withdrawn by the Belarus Ministry of Information in 2013 after he printed a book continuing a photograph of a protestor who had been assaulted by the police. He was awarded the IPA Freedom to Publish Prize 2014 and launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay a government fine earlier this year.