Interview With Gilberto Gil, Brazil’s Culture Minister 27/09/2006 by Intellectual Property Watch 2 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and are not associated with Intellectual Property Watch. IP-Watch expressly disclaims and refuses any responsibility or liability for the content, style or form of any posts made to this forum, which remain solely the responsibility of their authors. Gilberto Gil, an internationally acclaimed musician and songwriter since the 1960s, is Brazil’s Minister of Culture. Educated in his native state of Bahia, Gil has lived and travelled extensively abroad and speaks four languages fluently. He reflects the Brazilian government’s position of caution about the rapid rise of intellectual property rights policy and protection globally, and has released some of his music under a Creative Commons license. Gil is leading the Brazilian delegation to the 25 September to 3 October World Intellectual Property Organization General Assembly, where the agenda includes a proposal to negotiate a broadcasters’ rights treaty and a decision on continuing debate about a WIPO development agenda. Read Gil’s intervention on the WIPO assembly floor. Intellectual Property Watch (IPW): What has brought you to Geneva? Gilberto Gil (GIL): Yes, I am here for the General Assembly of WIPO, which is an international organization of the UN system, getting many countries together and proposing treaties and legal frameworks and regulatory standards for the intellectual property-related aspects of the economy. So I’m here as a minister of culture to participate in the discussions, especially this year they are discussing something that relates directly to our area, the broadcast treaty that is being proposed. Basically this time here is for that. Also for the development agenda that has been proposed by Brazil and some other countries. It’s been also subjected to appreciation by members of WIPO, and I think in this matter of the development agenda, we are advancing basically all the African nations, South American countries now strongly support the agenda because the association between development and creativity and intellectual property-related goods and services is understood as something crucial and strategic for the whole global economy. So it’s progressing now. A sort of sceptical position held by some developed countries before has changed, now they consider the fact that the development agenda should be implemented, and we feel comfortable about that. The meeting of the assembly [on 25 September] showed very clearly that we are progressing in this matter. [on whether it was strategic for a famous musician to address political issues at WIPO:] “it’s not intentional in the sense, ‘Let’s send our minister who is a pop star so we can use his pop star status to add value to our political side.’ It’s just coincidence.”As far as the broadcasting treaty, there is a cautious position by many countries including Brazil, because of the interests involved. We think that we should discuss it deeper and more extensively and avoid the imposition of a new layer of rights given to the holders of the broadcast companies, because the existing legal framework is in our view sufficient, the guarantee of the rights and for the need for functioning and so forth. The argument of the big companies is that piracy regarding the signals is becoming something very difficult, and we think a treaty should go directly to that point. Our government thinks we should consider something exactly on the point of guaranteeing [protection] for the signal holders. That should be sufficient, and not necessarily [a] new treaty giving extra rights, extra power and monopolising conditions to the companies. This is our position, and I think that many countries agree about that. If they don’t necessarily agree about this matter of substance, they at least agree that we should postpone the diplomatic conference so we can discuss and guarantee all the different states’ positions and solve the matter, clear the doubts and the questions about it. I think those are the two main things as far as Brazil is concerned for this assembly. IPW: You have a leadership quality, everybody in the world knows you and loves your music and ideas. Is your presence here in part in order to put a little extra impact on the position or are you just here as a government functionary? GIL: A government functionary. That is not on my side. We are not using an extra dimension that I have, to add to the pressure elements that we could have here. I’m just as a minister, whoever would be the minister would be here to do that. It happens that I am from the area, from the sector, I am an artist, I’m involved with the universe of communications, broadcasting, media, and so and so, which brings a visibility and a little more sort of exposure to the Brazilian representation here, which is good but it’s not intentional in the sense, ‘Let’s send our minister who is a pop star so we can use his pop star status to add value to our political side.’ It’s just coincidence. IPW: On broadcasting, I think at least one country has sought to extend the treaty to webcasting and simulcasting, the rest of the world said, ‘We are not ready for that’ and so it was agreed to take it out… GIL: It’s been agreed, it is agreed, so now as far as our understanding goes, we are separating the two things, the Internet and the traditional broadcasts. This decision should be maintained we suppose. It’s been agreed even by the United States. IPW: Then my question is that if it is already agreed, then that agreement cannot be undone before the negotiation that would take place next summer. If it is postponed, then webcasting and broadcasting could be reintroduced. If you want to limit it to signal piracy, why not let it move ahead without these other elements? “As far as the broadcasting treaty, there is a cautious position by many countries including Brazil, because of the interests involved. We think that we should discuss it deeper and more extensively and avoid the imposition of a new layer of rights given to the holders of the broadcast companies, because the existing legal framework is in our view sufficient…”GIL: Because we have no consensus on the different matters regarding the different opinions and different proposals by different countries, so there’s a lot of work to be done. So we should proceed taking into account the decisions already made. We should separate traditional broadcast and electronic and Internet broadcasts. This is a point agreed upon, so we should continue from that point. But then there are many, many other aspects and details, included by different countries that should be negotiated so that we can get to a minimum common ground regarding the whole of the treaty and all the matters conveyed. Only when this consensus is obtained or close to being obtained, only then should we call for a diplomatic conference. I think this is the position now of the United States, and Brazil, Argentina, South American countries, Asian countries, South Africa and other African countries, and I think even the European Union. IPW: There have been some eight years of discussion on this now. But it’s not a matter of how long but rather how close you are to agreement? Also, I’ve noticed some apparent differences between some developing countries on this. Some oppose, seem not to be pushing for it nor opposed, and some seem to say they see a need for this. Is there a split between developing countries? GIL: I think the developing countries, they all consider that the signal piracy should be attacked, this is basically agreed by everybody. On the other matters, sometimes the developing or least developed countries don’t try to push or be absolutely clear about their position, but this is like diplomacy, not only on that matter. There will always be a group of countries that move forward, take the lead, and then act in the name of the others. This is the case of Brazil, for instance, [which] understands the role that should be played by a country with such a big territory and big population and a cultural diversity, and a strong broadcast economic sector. Brazil naturally moves a little faster and a little bolder than other developing countries and because of that it takes the lead and assumes a representing role. IPW: If you were just starting out now, you were the young Gilberto Gil today, maybe making your first album, would you have a better opportunity now or did you have a better opportunity then to get your ideas out, get them known and receive payment for them? GIL: It’s different today. We have a much, much larger number of competitors, newcomers, different from how it was when I started. But at the same time, the means of exposure and means of reaching the market out there, we have a better situation today. The tools that we have today are quite significant in terms of efficiency compared to how it was when I started. So I think that today, if I was a beginner, I would basically go for large use of new tools, new means, strong support of intellectual property flexibility, welcome to initiatives like Creative Commons and peer-to-peer, and fair use, and copyleft, and all those new things that are there, and Internet as an instrument for propagating the presence of our music. I’m acting as if I was young and a beginner. IPW: Are you concerned about digital rights management, technical protection measures, efforts by holders of rights of music to protect it? I don’t know in your case who has the rights to your music. GIL: I have the rights to my music, I had a big fight for almost eight years with my editors. There were at least three or four different editors, and I fought during seven years to have my copyrights back. I got it, and since then I have my own editing company. IPW: Do you worry about piracy at all? GIL: I worry as anybody else, but at the same time I don’t get nervous and anxious about enforcing, [using] repressive means. I think that together with enforcing the repression, the policing and escalating processes, I think that also “flexibilising,” using new business models, using new forms of approaching audiences and things are also ways to fight piracy, to annul the piracy actions. IPW: On Creative Commons, why did you choose to issue some of your music under the licenses? GIL: To say yes. To say yes, this is valuable, this is a new instrument, this is a new possibility, this is a new political element that society should use to improve this concept of opening and creating culture and multiplying the possibilities for multiple players. Let’s get back to balancing the concept of protection of individual rights, authors’ rights, and public domain and public access, the public dimension of culture. It’s like Creative Commons licenses help more than the opposite, they are more positive than negative. IPW: How did you choose which songs or which previous recordings to put under Creative Commons license, and how did you choose which licenses among those that they have? GIL: Well, I got some songs and then I said let’s get some different licenses considering how far I wanted to go in terms of giving free access to them, if just half-way or all the way through, and keeping some rights protected and letting some others go. Also to show everybody that we can go from all rights reserved to none, and places in between. IPW: You kept some licenses? GIL: Sure. The [CC] licenses that I use allow people to use the songs, use parts of the songs, reshape the songs, and everything, but when it comes to the commercial exploitation of them, we should at least be consulted and then go for an authorising or not. IPW: Have you had pressure from industry or from anyone not to use the Creative Commons license? GIL: Yes, a little from my record company at the time. IPW: Can you give an example of something you’ve really liked that someone did with your music as a result of your having put your music out there? GIL: No, I’m not really following it in terms of that. I just give the material, put the material there, support the Creative Commons concept, let’s go, let’s do it. What I know is that for instance, licenses in the Creative Commons were up to 45-50 million last year. They’ve come to 150 million this year. So it’s moving fast. I’m glad that I could sort of be part of that process as it kicks off. IPW: Is there anything you’d like to say on WIPO or any other policies or politics in Geneva? GIL: I had a meeting with the president of WIPO [on 25 September], and I was very much enthusiastic about the future role about the future role we think WIPO should play in terms of interpreting the trends, the tendencies, of intellectual property flexibility, inclusion, as the president himself puts it. Meaning, not just including as many as possible number of countries in the functioning of the institution today, but also inclusion in the sense that we should include the new themes, the new demands, and intellectual property flexibilities is one of the main things today. Not only considering the protection of the authors and of the authors’ rights, but also taking care of the public domain, of the social role of intellectual property, democratisation, universalisation, all of those contexts that should be referential to the work of an organisation like WIPO today already but mainly in the future. So like horizon, we were discussing horizon ahead of us for the next years. This is, I think, besides the regular day-to-day process of the subjects, and the multilateral and bilateral situations for WIPO, we should consider this advancing in terms of substance, of policy, I would even use the word ideology. 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