"Respecting Intellectual Property is an incentive for innovation"
In the period between the 11th and the 13th of August 2005; in the presence of Norwegian writers unions, and in cooperation between the Norwegian translators union and Ogarit Center for translation and publication in Ramallah, a workshop was organized in Oslo for the discussion of Arabic-Scandinavian-Arabic language translation. The workshop took place during my visit to the Kopinor Association (The Norwegian Association for Intellectual Property Rights); during the workshop a vital issue was raised for discussion: The significance of intellectual property laws that ensure the rights of writers and authors in all areas of knowledge. This gave rise to a Palestinian discussion concerning the importance of such laws in the very special Palestinian reality. During this discussion questions were raised with regard to priorities: Is it better to encourage reading, under the prevailing recessive economic conditions in Palestine, even if this meant photocopying instead of purchasing? Is there any importance to pressuring an endorsement of such a law in a time where more vital laws are needed that concern the organization of our daily lives and a solid infrastructure to our nation while occupation shuts our breaths and controls our sky, land, and sea?
Questions gathered and intersected; I wondered through the common aspects of these issues; about Arab writers in general and Palestinian writers in specific, where production is poor and limited, in contrast with writers of the world where production is intense, widely distributed, and variable. I then wondered about rights in general; about the difference between feeling that you have rights supported by the law and feeling that you have no rights. Aren't we more creative and productive when we feel that our rights are well protected? Another question rises: How do people innovate, whether they are writers or translators or artists or musicians or journalists or photographers or editors or directors or actors? Under what conditions do they innovate? Do they find time for innovation? And if they do, is there any appreciation for innovation and thought?
We heard a detailed description about the work of Kopinor Association since 1980. First it was open for the membership of any association or organization that represents holders of publishing rights. Now it contains 21 member organizations, five publisher associations, and sixteen writers' associations. In turn, Kopinor is a member in the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organization (IFRRO), which includes all international associations as well as national and regional organizations that deal with intellectual property rights. The IFRRO now contains 83 member associations.
Kopinor includes unions and associations for: Norwegian editors, writers, artists, music composers, translators of literature, handicraft, music distribution, journalists, children's writers, critics, publishers, professional photographers, artwork photographers, and theater artists. Kopinor argues that illegal copying is a threat to the freedom of the stream of knowledge, that respecting intellectual rights encourages innovation, and that there is importance in providing a financial base for innovation. Thus, Kopinor provides licenses for copying published work in cooperation with associations in other countries, while negotiating and establishing agreements for copyrights and other related rights in all aspects of life.
Kopinor has signed agreements for copying publications and books with: public and private schools, universities and colleges, governmental departments, courts and the parliaments, churches and religion institutions, in addition to several private companies and manufacturing organizations. These agreements allow parties to copy but forbid public use or sale. An important part of the agreement is allowing the signing parties to copy only a specific amount, for example, 15% from a book for universities. Magazines and newspapers can be copied with no limitation as long as right holders receive their payment. Agreements related to music are more restrictive. 80% of copyrights in Norway are owned now by Kopinor.
I admired that exquisite harmony between individuals and institutions present in the work of Kopinor. I realized the value of collective and institutional work that guarantees the rights of individuals; people work through institutions and associations to defend their interests in a relation of mutual gains. Here the difference prevails; on one hand there is individualism that attempts to control and loyalty to clans in group work, and on the other hand there is individual interest that voluntarily translates into group work through organizations that defend that interest.
I realized the need for us to know foreign experiences and study their impact on the building of institutions as well as know our needs and interests that should erase tribal thought and encourage free competition for authority and institutional work. I realized the need to use the skills of those unemployed as well as support and appreciate innovation.
To the Palestinian Legislative Council:
When we perceive intellectual property as a necessity to the development of the Palestinian cultural industry, and when we know that this cultural industry is a means of social, economic, and cultural entertainment for the Palestinian state that we are working to build, and when we realize that the cultural industry accounts for 5% of national income in most developed nations, and if every nation needs an up-to-date law that protects intellectual property for the development of its cultural base; where is the Palestinian law of intellectual property? When do you take the draft of the law out of its dusty drawer so that it can be examined, discussed, and endorsed?