Press release

ARTICLE 19 Launches The Right To Share

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ARTICLE 19

25 Apr 2013

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Today, on the eve of the World Intellectual Property Day, ARTICLE 19 launches The Right To Share: Principles on Freedom of Expression and Copyright in the Digital Age (Right to Share Principles), a ground-breaking document that aims to guide policy makers, legislators, judiciary and civil society on how to balance the right to freedom of expression and copyright.

The Right to Share Principles – developed in cooperation with high-level experts from around the world - seek to establish a framework, which can be used to ensure that the right to freedom of expression and the ability to share knowledge and culture are protected from increasing and excessive copyright interests in the digital age. The Principles also seek to promote positive measures that foster the free flow of information and ideas and allow greater access to information, knowledge and culture on the Internet and beyond.

The tension between the right to freedom of expression and copyright is not new. However, over the last ten years, we have seen an alarming expansion of copyright claims at the expense of human rights protection. The Right to Share Principles show that freedom of speech and the free flow of information and ideas should not and cannot be marginalised by claims to property” comments Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

As part of a series of recommendations, lawmakers should consider scrapping criminal sanctions for non-commercial copyright infringement. It is entirely disproportionate that millions of internet users worldwide face the threat of criminal punishment for personal use of copyrighted material where they seek no commercial gain. Copyright law must keep pace with technological and social change and not stifle creativity in the name of protecting it” added Callamard. 

Reaction to the Right to Share Principles

Experts and activists who participated in the drafting of the Principles comment:

Copyright has become a crucial issue for the defence of free speech as its enforcement has consistently trampled free communications on the Internet over the last decade,” said Jérémie Zimmermann spoke-person for La Quadrature du Net (France).

Not-for-profit sharing, reuse and transformation of copyrighted works - remix - has become a means of expression for the online generations and has an immense positive value for our society as a whole. Copyright regimes must be profoundly reformed to allow for free speech online. The work initiated by ARTICLE 19 goes encouragingly in such direction” Zimmermann added.

"We, at Access Now, see the Internet as a globally shared resource, a platform that has enabled citizens around the world to freely express themselves on an unprecedented level. Access to culture, freedom of communication, freedom of expression and privacy are key to enabling the ability of citizens to fully participate in society, and it is absolutely critical that policies and practices that seek to protect copyright do not infringe these fundamental rights,” commented Raegan MacDonald, Senior Policy Analyst at Access Now (USA). 

The largest numbers of sites blocked by the Indian ISPs are a result of requests by entertainment companies. These requests have not been found to have been infringing by any court anywhere in India or elsewhere” said Pranesh Prakash, Policy Director for Centre for Internet and Society (India).

The Principles laid out in this document are much-needed. Not only are they grounded in free speech jurisprudence, they are at times bold too: calling for a reform of international copyright law in places where it unreasonably burdens freedom of expression” added Prakash.

"Copyright has emerged as one of the major constraints on online expression. These principles will help policy-makers to watch for conflicts and ensure that copyright serves freedom of expression, rather than interfering with speech and information-sharing" said Wendy Seltzer, Policy Counsel at World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) (USA).

The way forward:

The Right to Share Principles are action and policy oriented and address issues such as protection of personal enjoyment of cultural goods and protection of public domain, recommendations include calling for:

  • The decriminalisation of non-commercial copyright infringement;
  • An appropriate regime for copyright enforcement in the digital environment;
  • Comprehensive measures for promoting access to knowledge and culture;
  • Human rights assessment of all trade treaties dealing with copyright protection. 

Notes:

  • The full report is available here
  • For more information, contact Ayden Peach, Press Officer at ayden@article19.org or +44 20 7324 2500;
  • The Right to Share Principles are the result of a series of consultations with high-level experts from Africa, Latin America, North America, Europe and South Asia: activists, legal practitioners, academics and other experts in international human rights law on the freedom of expression and in copyright law. These included two expert meetings in London on 18 November 2011 and 7 December 2012 and broader discussions around the draft that emerged from those meetings.

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