Rumors were boiling during the last weeks who president-elect Dilma Rousseff will appoint as her new minister of culture. On Monday, 20 December, as one of the last cabinet posts she announced her decision. After five and a half years under Gilberto Gil and two and a half years under Juca Ferreira, the Ministry of Culture (MinC) will be headed by Ana Maria Buarque de Hollanda. This might mean the end of the copyright law bill of the previous administration. It most certainly means the end of the public oversight of collecting societies that the bill was to establish, and quite likely it means the end of the Sharing Licence.
See addendum 5.1.2011
Tradução do texto em Português do Brasil por Gustavo Lapido Loureiro.
Ana de Hollanda is the daughter of the late historian and sociologist Sérgio Buarque and the sister of the composer and singer Chico Buarque who had supported Dilma in her election campaign. She worked as singer and songwriter herself, recording her first album in 1980. Politically she had joined the now-dissolved Brazilian Communist Party and between 1986 and 1988 was Secretary of Culture of the city of Osasco in the state of Sao Paulo. She then moved to Rio de Janeiro where from 2003 to 2006 she served as Director of the Music Center at the National Foundation for the Arts (FUNARTE). When the director of FUNARTE, the actor Antonio Grassi, who had invited her for the position, was fired by then-Minister Gilberto Gil, Ana de Hollanda also left the foundation. She then headed the Museum of Image and Sound (MIS) at the Secretariat of Culture of the State of Rio de Janeiro. Ana de Hollanda is one of nine women among the 37 persons in the highest positions of Dilma’s administration.
The MinC used to be an insignificant ministry before Gil took over. Now it is still not powerful, struggling to reach the one percent of the federal budget that president Lula had targetted, but it has become much more influential in articulating areas like the public support for the arts and copyright law. The new significance of the ministry was one of the reasons that the struggle for a successor was waged forcefully. The blogosphere talks about arm-wrestling between political parties and factions.
When Lula in 2003 put he Green Party member Gilberto Gil at the helm of the ministry, this was seen as an affront, an “initial trauma,” by those in the Workers Party (PT), like Antonio Grassi, who saw culture as their vested interest. From the beginning, there were conflicts between the two groups. During Lula’s second term, Grassi, accused of conspiracy, ended up getting fired from FUNARTE by Gil. The appointment of Ana de Holland, who left FUNARTE in in solidarity with Grassi in 2007, is therefore seen as a victory for the group, which for eight years was displeased with Lula’s choice. (Nova ministra está ligada a grupo contrário a Gilberto Gil, Ana Paula Sousa, Folha.com, 22.12.2010)
It seems, Grassi, who was striving for the ministerial post himself, had set his eyes on Ana de Hollanda for a while already. Three years ago, he featured her on his blog at Globo, where she defended copyright as inalienable private property and called democratization of access to information “ironic talk” intended to neutralize creativity. Instead Buarque de Hollanda praised the work of the music collecting society ECAD (Central Bureau of Collection and Distribution) and of Fernando Brant, the president of ECAD’s largest member organization União Brasileira de Compositores (UBC). Before the appointment, many assumed that ECAD is pulling strings and mobilizing the syndicalist factions inside the PT close to culture industry in order to promote candidates of their choice. Ana de Hollanda was one of them. Now it is feared that many of the achievements of the period of Gil and Ferreira will be rolled-back.
In the media interviews so far, the new minister, who is not a member of the PT, points out that she had been approached about ten days earlier and received the invitation to head the ministry only two days before her appointment. Nevertheless, as a professional artist and someone who has worked in the public culture administration, her initial statements are astonishingly clueless. The direction in which she is set to go, however, seems to be already clear. One of the first interviews, published by O Globo (in a DRM format that prohibited copying of the text when I wrote this piece, then it popped up a window warning that the text may not be used for commercial purposes (see coments) and today (28.5.2011) seems to be gone alltogether) is headlined “Culture Minister will review the new Law on Copyright” (Ministra da Cultura vai rever a nova Lei do Direto Autoral, André Miranda, O Globo, 23.12.2010)
In it, she calls the reform of the copyright law “a controversial issue,” and alleges that “the Ministry of Culture did not send the bill to Congress yet because it lacks the approval of society. … It is not possible that radical changes are made overnight.” She thus seems ignorant of the intense debates with all creative sectors and society at large over the last five years that have gone into the current bill. The nearly eight thousands submissions to the public consultation on the bill indicate strong support as well as a desire for improvements in a number of areas. The strongest lack of approval comes from culture industry and particularly from ECAD, which have maintained from the beginning that the 1998 copyright law does not need to be reformed and is already perfectly adapted for the digital age. Indeed, Consumers International in its 2010 IP Watch List found the current Brazilian copyright law to be one of the most restrictive in the world.
A central element of the copyright reform is to establish rules and public oversight for collecting societies. Currently there exists only one in Brazil, ECAD, that collects royalties for both music authors’ and performers’ rights. ECAD is not made up directly of artists but of ten associations of composers, musicians, publishers and record labels. This two-tiered structure leads to even less democratic participation of artists than in most collecting societies and with about 25 percent to one of the highest administration costs in the world. It is also one of the few collecting societies in the world without any form of public oversight. Its conduct led to several congressional investigations and an ongoing one by the Secretariat of Economic Law. The current MinC not only proposed to bring this structure in line with international norms but also wanted to encourage the formation of additional collecting societies, first of all for reprography, in order to end the photocopying crisis that had led the book publishers association to close down copyshops at serveral of the most prestigious universities in the country.
As vague as Ana de Hollanda is on all other issues, as clear she is on this point: “ECAD is a private association of authors and composers. I see no possibility of subordinating such a representative entity to the government. I do not even know if legally there is that possibility.” (Ana de Hollanda: “Não tem nada de troca de gentilezas,” IG, 22.12.2010)
Another center-piece of the previous ministry’s policies was the reform of the law that incentivizes corporate sponsorship of culture by means of tax-breaks. The so called Lei Rounet is in Congress already, yet Buarque de Hollanda announced that she will review the draft, arguing that she has “heard both angry complaints and great praises.” She has not yet made any statements on the Pontos de Cultura, the network of grass-roots cultural initiatives across the country that were equipped with media production tools, servers, free software and a small budget. This measure for digital inclusion introduced under Minister Gil met with great national and international praise.
The copyright bill has already moved from the Ministry of Culture to the Ministry of Civil Affairs (Casa Civil), the final step before it is introduced to Congress. Yet, it seems clear that Ana de Hollanda will call it back for review. As unbelievable as it sounds, the bill could end up in a drawer, effectively trashing the extensive work and broad debates with all sectors of society over five years.
The entire staff of the copyright office of the MinC has left already or will do so in early January. Ana de Hollanda declined to identify possible names for her administration and hinted she could use much of the staff who worked alongside Juca Ferreira in the previous government. She did emphasize, however, that she would like to have her friend Antonio Grassi on board. (Ministra da Cultura quer dar ênfase à integração com ministérios e estatais, Alba Valéria Mendonça, G1, Globo, 22.12.2010) You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.
Meanwhile, civil society organisation from various creative sectors, academia, consumer rights and the Internet community are preparing an open letter, urging her not to undo the extensive participatory work achieved so far and seeking the dialogue with the new minister.
On the 3d of January, the new Culture Minister, Ana de Hollanda, delivered her Inaugural Address. What is most remarkable about this speech is that it is nearly entirely devoid of content. Niceties and rhetorics aside, she commits herself to continuing uncontroversial policies of the previous administration, namely the Pontos de Cultura, bringing culture into schools and urbanistic programmes such as the restoration of historic cities.
She does mention the need for “access to information, knowledge and art” but does not link it to freedoms in copyright law which she does not mention at all. Instead she translates it into the need to “increase the capacity for cultural consumption by the Brazilian people who are socially upward mobile.” In order to do so, she urges the Members of Congress to approve the “Vale Cultura.”
“Vales” are a peculiar form of fringe benefits for employees in the form of vouchers. There is the “vale alimentação” that can be cashed at the lunch counter and the “vale transporte” for gasoline. 80% of these purpose-specific “vales,” introduced during the time of hyper-inflation, are paid by the employer as part of the salary and 20% are a state subsidy. The vale-cultura bill (PL 5798/09) already in Congress would bring a credit worth 50 R$ to 12 million employees that can be spend for theater, movies, concerts, museums, CDs, DVDs or books. The social contract between artists and audiences that Ana de Hollanda stands for at the beginning of her term thus is a paternalistic public-private partnership, encouraging Brazilians to consume over-prized cultural goods rather than downloading them from the Internet.