Ever since Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff appointed Ana de Hollanda as new Minister of Culture in December 2010, the situation has been escalating. There was a first Open Letter by the Brazilian civil society at the end of December and another one by the international free culture and commons movement in February, asking for a continuation of the impressive free culture policies initiated under Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil. Now an even broader coalition from all wakes of Brazilian culture, from academia and the Internet community and from all parts of the country are calling on President Rousseff to put an end to Ana de Hollanda’s grotesque policy activities and live up to her election campaign promises. At the time of writing, the letter has already received more than 1,200 signatures. Here is an English translation of the Open Letter published on 21 April 2011:
Letter to the Honorable President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff
Excellency President Rousseff,
this letter is an expression of citizens and civil society organizations and seeks to express our extreme discomfort with the changes in the field of cultural policies, annulling eight years of accumulated discussions and advancements that gave visibility and a role in dialogue to a Ministry that hitherto had been subordinate. Frustrating those who saw the symbolism of appointing the first woman to Minister of Culture of Brazil as a victory, this administration quickly undertook to deconstruct not only the achievements of the previous administration, but especially the original, rich and productive environment of debate that had been established.
The signatories of this letter believe in the need for continuing and deepening the successful policies of the Lula government. These policies are summarized in the National Plan for Culture, which is the result of a process of extensive public consultations and was signed into law by the President, but is now being ignored by the Minister. We affirm that where the previous administration had successes, it was because the Ministry approached the prime movers of culture, understanding the new protagonism of individuals, groups and parts of the population that hitherto were considered “peripheral” and the extraordinary possibilities of Digital Culture. This is not just a discussion about technological and legal tools, but about a whole new creative and cultural context, as these technologies have been appropriated and reinvented in various ways by these new actors. It is essential in this territory, to place Digital Culture at the heart of the discussions of cultural policies of the Ministry and to pursue the capillarity of programmes like Cultura Viva and the Points of Culture for which the Minister strongly signaled a setback.
By blocking the reform of the copyright law and ignoring the opinions received during six years of debate, 150 meetings held throughout the country, nine national and international conferences, 75 days of public consultation on the Internet which received 7,863 contributions, the Minister affronts the entire enormous democratic effort of understanding and elaboration. If there is a compelling explanation for the urgency to obstruct such a healthy political dynamic, it is to come to the rescue of institutions threatened in their privileges, such as the music collecting society ECAD (Central Bureau of Collection and Distribution) and the associations that compose it, which in the presidential election campaign explicitly and determinedly supported the cultural policies and the candidate that were defeated.
But this “rescue” is contrary to the Law 12.343 of 2 December 2010, which approved the National Plan for Culture and clearly establishes the obligation to reform the copyright law (according to clauses 1.9.1 and 1.9.2 that stipulate “the creation of an institution specifically dedicated to the promotion and regulation of copyright and the activities of collection and distribution of copyright royalties” and “the review of the Brazilian copyright legislation, in order to balance the interests of creators, investors and users, establishing fairer contractual relationships and more transparent criteria for royalty collection and distribution”). By alleging that the text of the law is “dictatorial” and that the proposal developed during the Lula government is “controversial” and does not meet the “interests of the authors,” the Minister deliberately confounds the interests of creators with those of exploiters and smuggles into the midst of the government Rousseff precisely those positions that were defeated in the presidential elections.
The issue of withdrawing the Creative Commons license from the webportal of the Ministry of Culture is also worth mentioning for its symbolism. The Ministry of Culture of the Lula government was a pioneer in recognizing that the laws that govern the rights of authors are not in step with the practices of our times and that it is imperative to improve them in favor of creators and broad access to culture. This advance was expressed in the National Plan for Culture in clause 1.9.13, which provides for “the encouragement and promotion of the development of knowledge- and technology-intensive cultural products and content, especially under flexible intellectual property regimes.” Contrary to what the Minister has said, the CC and similar licenses are intended to regulate the form of remuneration of the artist, not prevent it. They seek to expand the power of the author in relation to his or her work and adapt it to new forms of production, distribution and remuneration and to the new business models that these technologies enable.
Thus, we believe that the initiatives of the current administration of the Ministry of Culture are not faithful to your presidential campaign, nor to the National Plan for Culture, nor to the accumulated discussions, representing at best an uninformed and disastrous voluntarism and at worst a deliberate step backwards. We support President Rousseff in her declared intention to continue enhancing and promoting Brazilian culture and strengthening a global leadership in discussions where our innovative approach has been highlighting the conservative models consolidated by the hegemonic culture industry of the United States and Europe. This requires that the Ministry of Culture is consistent with the perspective of the government Dilma Rousseff in understanding, deepening and expanding the achievements of the cultural policies of the Lula government.
(Read the text of the original Portuguese version of the Open Letter on Mobiliza Cultura and see the signatures there.)