Your contribution as an individual creator is uniquely valuable to our culture, our democracy and our economy.
‘Artistic creativity constitutes a decisive factor for the preservation of the identity of peoples and the promotion of a universal dialogue. We are thus fully aware of the essential contribution that can be made by the arts and artists to improving the quality of life, to the development of society, and to the progress of tolerance, justice and peace in the world.’ 1
Creators and cultural identity
Creators’ capacity to preserve, focus and foster identity is clear and well documented. Cultural identity is often most powerfully defined by creative output. Examples abound: artistic forms like Argentinian Tango, American Jazz or the paintings of the Southern Ndebele of South Africa, to individual works, like the Cuban photographer Alberto Korda’s iconic image of Che Guevara or the writings of Dostoyevsky.
Moreover, the ability to protect this creativity and receive a fair share of profits made from its use is the linchpin of an economy that derives income from creativity. Creativity’s value is recognised in copyright and rewarded in royalties.
Without a strong system for linking copyright and royalties to the individual creator, the creator can easily be left unrewarded for the work’s value.
Although it was a universally recognised image, copied on every conceivable format, Korda never received a penny in royalties for the use of his most famous photograph. However, the image generated a great deal of income for those who exploited it.
The ability to protect and reward our creators through copyright, so they can sustain themselves through their work, is vital to both the UK’s cultural identity and our economy. It is also critical to preserve and develop our democracy itself.
Creators and democracy
A well-managed system of copyright legislation and provision, which facilitates individual creators, underwrites a democratic culture. One respected commentator put it like this:
“By according creators of original expression a set of exclusive rights to market their literary and artistic works, copyright fosters the dissemination of knowledge, supports a pluralist, non-state communications media, and highlights the value of individual contributions to public discourse”.2
It is no coincidence that cultures with the best-developed systems of intellectual property (IP) protection, which value individual creators, are also the societies with the best developed democracies.
Freedom of association, free expression and the resulting diversity of opinion, output and viewpoint from amateurs to experts who have dedicated a lifetime to honing their creative output are good for democracy.
Democracy cannot function at all without the professional skills to describe government and party policies to voters – whether exercised by journalists or satirists. How else would we choose how to vote? By consuming the spin-doctors’ raw output?
Professional creators routinely create work of enduring value and meaning, having crafted their skills over many years. This dedicated experience offers two main dividends for creativity at large:
Professional creators provide benchmarks for creative excellence for amateurs and semi-professionals to aspire to; and
As their livelihoods depend upon the protection of copyright, professional creators are at the vanguard of protecting rights that the wider population enjoys and needs.
Extending or even maintaining diversity of creativity depends upon protecting the interests of professional creators.
Some of the less thoughtful advocates of the anti-copyright slogan “information wants to be free” suggest that all our needs for software, culture, and reporting could be met by hackers, amateurs and bloggers doing it as a hobby and living off a day job. It is alarming to think how many people would be excluded from making their creative contribution in such a world.
So a healthy culture, democracy and creative economy needs diverse creativity.
1: Your unique contribution: what is needed
1UNESCO (1997) Final Declaration of the World Congress on the Status of the Artist.
2Netanel N (1998) “Asserting Copyright’s Democratic Principles in the Global Arena”, Vanderbilt Law Review 217