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Irish government urged not to sacrifice creative workers

9 May 2011

Ireland's trade and enterprise minister, Richard Bruton, has announced a review of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000. Irish journalists are calling for an informed and balanced debate on copyright in advance of any changes to existing laws.

Barry McCall, NUJ vice-president, urged the government not to sacrifice Irish creative workers on the "altar of international trade in creative rights."

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

Speaking at a meeting of the union's Dublin Freelance branch, Séamus Dooley said that the NUJ in Ireland must join the battle being waged in the UK for genuine copyright reform.

While the development of the digital economy was a welcome objective, he said that the government must be careful not to give the impression that Ireland was prepared to sell out creative workers at any price.

"We are gravely concerned at the tone of the announcement made 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 he makes no reference to the concept of creators' rights or to the necessity of protecting the rights of Irish cultural workers."

The NUJ represents over 35,000 journalists in the UK and Ireland, of whom 10,000 are freelance writers, photographers and videographers making their living directly by licensing copyright works.

During the consultation process on Ireland's 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.

Séamus Dooley said:

"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."

Barry McCall added:

"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 which states that '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'."

Tags: , copyright, freelance, creative industries, government ireland