Land of literary giants must not abandon creative workers – NUJ

The National Union of Journalists has called for an informed and balanced debate on copyright in Ireland in advance of any amendment to existing legislation.  Union Vice President Barry McCall has urged the Government not to sacrifice Irish creative workers on the “altar of international trade in creative rights”.

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation Richard Bruton today announced a review of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000.

Reacting to the announcement Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley warned against any attempt at diluting the rights of freelance creators in an attempt to pander to the demands of international companies whose ambition is to undermine copyright for commercial gain with no regard for the rights of writers, photographers and composers.

Speaking at a meeting of Dublin Freelance branch in Buswells Hotel, Dublin Mr Dooley said that the union in Ireland must join the battle being waged in the UK for genuine copyright reform.  While the development of the digital economy is a welcome objective the Government must be careful not to give the impression that this country is prepared to sell out creative workers at any price.

Mr Dooley said: “We are gravely concerned at the tone of the announcement made today by Mr Bruton.  The Minister says that ‘government will make whatever changes are necessary to allow innovative digital companies reach their full potential in Ireland’ but makes no reference to the concept of creators’ rights or to the necessity of protecting the rights of Irish cultural workers.

The National Union of Journalists represents over 35,000 journalists in the UK and Ireland, of which 10,000 are freelance writers, photographers and videographers and therefore make their living directly by licensing copyright works.  We must ensure that our voice is heard in this debate.

During the consultation process on the Copyright and Related Rights Bill and in the parliamentary debates the NUJ, the Irish Writers Union, and other representative groups sought to ensure that copyright was treated as more than a tradable commodity. Unfortunately those with deeper pockets and control of powerful media organisations managed to yield far greater influence. We hope that the Fine Gael/Labour government does not prove as susceptible to the charms of these organisations as the then Minster for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Harney.

The consultation process on that Bill was entirely unsatisfactory and the assurances given to the NUJ were undermined when the Minister gave in to lobbying from media owners.  Let us hope that this process is conducted in a more open and transparent manner. In this regard we will be working with other organisations in Ireland just as the NUJ has worked with the Creators’ Rights Alliance in the UK.”

Mr Dooley has asked NUJ Vice President Barry McCall to chair an advisory committee to draft the NUJ submission.

Mr McCall said: “The country that gave us O’Casey, Yeats, Shaw, Joyce, Wilde, Heaney and so many other literary giants should not abandon the fundamental principles of copyright.  It would be ironic if we were to celebrate Dublin’s designation as UNESCO City of Literature by abandoning the principle enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

‘Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author’.”