The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) today announced a partnership with the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) and the International Federation of Actors (FIA) to improve recognition and treatment of musicians and actors internationally. Specifically, the agreement seeks to address the recognition of these workers’ rights in developing countries, and especially with regard to their intellectual property rights. From a WIPO press release today:
The agreement highlights the connection between IP and labor and the special concerns of cultural workers from the viewpoint of development and cultural diversity. It provides for the organization of joint activities to strengthen performers’ networks and improve their economic and legal status, as well as for raising awareness of the need to support performers. Actors and musicians are an essential element in the development of the creative potential of all economies, particularly in developing countries. It is further anticipated that the agreement will help to galvanize support for the protection of performers at international level.
Treaty negotiations on the protection of audiovisual performances were deadlocked in December 2000 because of a lack of agreement on the issue of transfer of rights from the performer to the producer. Since that time, WIPO has undertaken extensive international consultations to develop information materials on outstanding differences and to improve the flow of information and understanding of the situation of performers. Recent consultations among Member States, held in Geneva, allowed for an open debate on this issue, which remains under consideration of the WIPO General Assembly.
Generally speaking, this acknowledgement by WIPO of the owners and creators of intellectual property rights (copyrights, in this case), is important, because we tend to speak of and deal with intellectual property rights without recognition of the specific owners or class of owners of these rights. After all, they are rights, or bundles of rights in the copyright context. These rights are obtained through labor, although we mask that labor as singing, dancing, and/or acting in the entertainment world. It is, however, a livelihood to many. Just like a lawyer has his library, office, and knowledge of the law for assets, a musician and actor has his or her IP rights, and sometimes that is all. Good for WIPO.