A Vision for the Future by Joost Smiers of Holland

Groups dominating the cultural industry disseminate only the artistic works and entertainments to which they hold copyright. They invest in and promote heavily only a few star items, and earn income from the spin-offs. Because of high risk levels and return-on-investment requirements, worldwide marketing campaigns are so aggressive that all other artistic creations bypass many people's cultural awareness. This jeopardizes the diversity of artistic expression, which is essential to democracy.

A new system should ensure that many artists, from rich and poor countries, can enjoy a reasonable standard of living from their creative work….The direct connection between the system and artists, as originally envisaged in the philosophy of copyright, is now almost non-existent. Why not go further and abolish copyright altogether, and replace it with a new system that ensures better remuneration for artists, greater respect for their work, and refocuses our attention on the public domain?

That artists might be better off without copyright protection may seem a paradoxical idea. But it warrants serious consideration. The enthusiasm created by the culture industries for their stars will undoubtedly decline. Those industries would no longer feel a need to invest massively in phenomena to attract the public if they could no longer have exclusive rights to the exploitation of the phenomena….So if copyright no longer existed, there would be no more monopolistic culture industries promoting celebrities and thereby determining commercial popular taste….Artists could once again find markets and audiences locally or, via the internet, globally, and improve their own standards of living.

Commercial users of artistic creations would still have certain rights to music, images, etc. to create demand. But the profits earned by businesses that use any form of artistic materials should be taxed. The revenue raised would go into a special fund to benefit….artists. There would no longer be any direct connection between the use of an artist's work and the remuneration paid.

Moral rights, which are supposed to protect the integrity of artistic and scientific work from counterfeiting, hinder creativity. They should go too. In the West, we take legal action as soon as we believe that copyright violation has been breeched. But if property did not exist, there would be nothing to steal and no cases to bring before the courts. The main question should be: was the use of a work, in whole or in part, undertaken with respect and with fresh creative input, or was the use substandard or lazy?…--Joost Smiers, Director of the Centre for Research at the Utrecht School of the Arts, Netherlands (in Le Monde, October 12, 2001)

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