“Entrenched Anti-Consumer Bias” Found In Copyright Laws; Creators Launch Petition For Better Contracts

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A major consumer group today released the results of its annual survey of 30 countries’ copyright laws and concluded that bias against consumers in favour of multinational copyright holders is “entrenched” and that there is a “global outcry” about overly strong copyright enforcement legislation. Meanwhile, international journalists groups joined songwriters, composers, film directors, screenwriters, illustrators, photographers and visual authors across Europe today to launch “a public campaign to bring an end to the unfair contractual practices facing creators.”

Consumers International in London released its fourth annual IP Watchlist report, stating that it is “calling on copyright holders and intellectual property (IP) legislators to work with consumers, not against them, to avoid future mass protests over the right to access the internet without interference.”

The 2012 report is available here in pdf form [pdf]. The CI Access to Knowledge programme is here.

According to CI, “49 criteria were developed by a panel of IP experts, who weighted each of the criteria to account for its relative importance to consumers. Reports were then completed for the 30 countries in a collaborative effort by CI’s member organisations and partners worldwide.”

The group said 30 countries took part in this year’s survey, and that the top five countries for consumer-friendly IP legislation were Israel, Indonesia, India, New Zealand, and the United States. The bottom five countries were Jordan, Argentina, United Kingdom, Thailand, and Brazil, it said.

Of the 30 countries rated in this year’s report, it added, “none scored higher than an overall ‘B’ grade. Most scoring particularly badly in terms of draconian enforcement practices and restrictions on freedom for consumers to share and transfer legally purchased digital content.”

Consumers International (CI) has over 220 member organisations in 115 countries.

Creators Demand Better Treatment

Separately (but also on the occasion of so-called World Copyright Day), a range of content creators launched an online petition today that states:

“Today authors are frequently coerced to waive, or assign parts of our statutory authors’ rights in the name of freedom of contract and flexibility. ‘Flexibility’, which merely allows producers and financiers to impose one sided contracts on individual authors with impunity. Individual creators are often forced to accept manifestly unfair contract terms and conditions which are drafted in advance and presented to them as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition: creators are regularly told that if they do not sign a particular contract, unamended, they will never work again for the company “offering” it. This problem is compounded by concentration of ownership: in some cases there is a monopsony – a single buyer for one class of creative work. These unfair contracts are (in the great majority of EU Member States) irreversible once signed.

“We see this as a distortion of the market and unfair competition. If authors are chosen not because of their professional qualifications, but on the basis of their willingness to assign more rights, or in worst case, waive all their rights, this will ultimately have a negative effect also for consumers.”

The petition contains a “Call for Action – 8 Unwaivable Principles in Contractual Agreements,” such as fair pay, no work-for-hire clauses, and the right to negotiate contracts collectively.

The petition offers support for a complaint brought by the European Composers and Songwriters Alliance (ECSA) on 17 January “against a group of European broadcasters and their alleged anti-competitive practices through coercive commissioning and unfair contractual agreements signed under duress,” the petition says.

The International/European Federation of Journalists press release is here.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported

Comments

  1. says

    It seems like the content creators are stuck in a catch-22. Consumer freedom allows each content creator to choose individually whether or not to enter into a contract – even if doing so assigns away all rights to the content they create as part of the contract. Once they have obtained a certain measure of power they can negotiate the rights they want. Until then their only option is to sign away all their rights or not sign the contract at all.

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