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Brazil: Ministry of Culture abandons Creative Commons

On January 9, Global Voices shared the concern of many Brazilian citizens who wrote an open letter to President-elect Dilma Rousseff and the new Minister of Culture, Ana de Hollanda. The letter urged the Minister to maintain the previous government's policy concerning the inclusive public policies regarding Internet, digital culture and authorial rights.

Two weeks later, on January 20, the Brazilian Ministry of Culture removed a Creative Commons license from its website. The order to remove it was apparently given by Minister de Hollanda and it provoked all sorts of reactions on social networks as well as among bloggers.

Creative Commons Brazil immediately opposed the decision of the Ministry on Twitter (@CC_BR):

Creative Commons Brazil interprets the removal of the #creativecommons license of the Ministry of Culture website as a backpedaling on the support to #digitalculturebr

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure to maximize digital creativity, sharing, and innovation. CC licenses are flexible, and the countries who have legal representation of the institution often adapt such licenses to their own legislation. Their Brazilian representation reposted an article by Revista ARede [TheWeb Magazine, pt] talking about the enormous political meaning of replacing the line “The content of this website is published under a Creative Commons License” – on the website since 2004 – to: “User License: the content on this website produced by the Ministry of Culture can be reproduced, provided the source”:

Da forma que está hoje, o site do MinC não tem uma licença válida, explica Ronaldo Lemos, diretor do Centro de Tecnologia e Sociedade (CTS) da Fundação Getúlio Vargas e diretor do Creative Commons Brasil. “Do ponto de vista jurídico, a frase que colocaram lá não quer dizer nada. Quem utilizar os conteúdos do site com base nela enfrenta um problema de insegurança jurídica enorme”, afirma ele. Além disso, a frase que o MinC deixou no site no lugar da licença CC fala apenas em “reprodução”. “Os direitos do CC são muito mais amplos e melhor formulados, abrangendo a produção colaborativa, o desenvolvimento de obras derivadas, a disseminação e assim por diante. Dessa forma, o site do MinC perdeu muito com a mudança”.

As it stands today, the Ministry of Culture website does not have a valid license, explains Ronaldo Lemos, director of the Center for Technology and Society of Fundação Getúlio Vargas and Lead of Creative Commons Brazil. “From the legal perspective, the phrase that they have put there does not mean anything. Whoever uses the contents of that website based on the sentence faces a big problem of juridical insecurity”, he states. Moreover, the sentence that the Ministry used to replace the CC license mentions only “reproduction”. “The rights of Creative Commons are broader and better elaborated, ranging from collaborative production, creation of derivatives, sharing and so on. In this regard, the Ministry of Culture website has lost a lot with the change”.

On the following day, the Ministry responded to the reaction of groups and individuals online with the official note:

“A retirada da referência ao Creative Commons da página principal do Ministério da Cultura se deu porque a legislação brasileira permite a liberação de conteúdo. Não há necessidade do ministério dar destaque a uma iniciativa específica. Isso não impede que o Creative Commons ou outras formas de licenciamento sejam utilizados pelos interessados.”

The removal of the reference to Creative Commons on the Ministry of Culture homepage occurred because Brazilian legislation allows the liberation of content. There is no need for the Ministry to feature a specific initiative. This does not stop Creative Commons or any other form of licensing to be used by anyone who is interested in it.

Leftist blogger Marco Weissheimer commented on the Ministry's response while comparing the current minister's decision with the work done in the mandate of Gilberto Gil, singer and songwriter who served as Minister of Culture from 2003 to 2008. He said [pt]:

A nota não aliviou as críticas e a preocupação com a continuidade da política iniciada na gestão de Gilberto Gil na Cultura. Durante a gestão de Gil, o Ministério da Cultura aderiu ao Creative Commons. Mais do que isso, Gil se tornou, em 2004, o primeiro compositor brasileiro a ceder direitos de uma canção à licença. O governo federal também passou a utilizar maciçamente as licenças. O Blog do Planalto, por exemplo, é licenciado dessa forma.

The note didn't alleviate the criticisms and worries about the continuity of policies initiated during Gilberto Gil's mandate in the Ministry of Culture. During Gil's mandate, the Ministry of Culture adhered to Creative Commons. Even beyond this, in 2004 Gil has become the first Brazilian composer to give in the rights of a song in Creative Commons. The federal government also started to make widespread use of CC licenses. The “Blog do Planalto” [Presidency's Blog], for example, is licensed with Creative Commons.

In an interview at Fatos Etc blog, the sociologist Sergio Amadeu considers the position of the Minister quite unexpected, pointing out the controversy on the new attribution policy. He contends that the minister herself committed an illegal act, and that her position is in contradiction with the new President's governmental policies [pt]:

A Dilma mantém o Blog do Planalto, instalado, implementado pelo presidente Lula em Creative Commons, e que continua em Creative Commons. E ela, a ministra, fez um ato que é afrontar a política de compartilhamento iniciada no governo Lula e afrontar a própria Dilma, que disse exatamente que iria continuar a política iniciada na gestão do Gilberto Gil e do Lula. Então ela, além disso, cometeu uma ilegalidade, porque não poderia tirar as licenças do Creative Commons das matérias e postagens que já tinham sido publicadas em Creative Commons.

Dilma updates the Blog do Planalto –that was installed and implemented by former president Lula in Creative Commons, and it is still in Creative Commons. And she, the Minister [of Culture], has made a move that clashes with the policy of sharing begun in Lula's government, and with Dilma herself, who said she would exactly carry on with the policies from Gilberto Gil and Lula's mandate. Ana de Hollanda then, in addition to that, has committed an illegal act because she could not remove the Creative Commons licenses from the news reports and articles that were already published with Creative Commons.

Some bloggers are discussing whether Ana de Hollanda might be benefiting ECAD (Central Bureau of Collection and Distribution), the organization responsible for distributing tax revenues on copyright media. Geraldine Juárez, writing for the blog alt1040, comments how the new Minister, a musician herself, has profited from the copyright industry and goes on saying [es]:

El único país que apuntaba en la dirección correcta para reformar de una forma justa para toda la sociedad y coherente con los retos que la digitilización implica, era Brasil. El Proyecto de Ley de Derecho de Autoral y su agenda de Cultura Digital creada por Gilberto Gil han sido uno de los factores que definitivamente ayudaron a voltear y fijar la mirada en Brasil.

The only country that set out the right direction towards reform [of copyright law] in a just manner for all of society, and in a manner coherent with the challenges implied by “digitalization”, was Brazil. The Copyright Bill and the Digital Culture agenda created by Gilberto Gil were some of the factors that definitely helped catch and fix all eyes on Brazil.

On the other hand, writing at the blog Ponto e Contraponto, author Len criticized the reaction of the Creative Commons community and its supporters. He argues that the replacement text and the copyright license helps giving a better understanding of what is feasible to be done with the content of the website for the average public [pt]:

Eu vejo como uma mudança positiva. A gente tem que levar sempre em consideração que são os usuários avançados de internet e os nerds que conhecem o CC e o significado das licenças. A maioria esmagadora que usa a internet e tem conhecimento básico não possui a menor ideia do que aqueles selos significam e muito menos em uma sigla em língua estrangeira. A frase grafada no rodapé da página, escrita em português informa melhor a um número maior de pessoas. As pessoas que não conhecem o significado dos selos da CC podem ter seus sites ou blogs e querer usar material do site do MinC, e com essa mudança eles também vão saber que podem usar o conteúdo, desde que citem a fonte.

I see it as a positive change. We have to always take into account that the advanced users of internet and nerds are the ones who know CC and the meaning of the licenses. The overwhelming majority that uses the web and have only the basic knowledge do not have any idea of what those labels mean and especially in a foreign language. The sentence written on the bottom of the webpage in Portuguese better informs a greater number of people. People who do not know the meaning of CC labels could have their websites or blogs, and want to use content from the Ministry website, and with this change they will also know that they can use such content, provided the source.

The outcome of Minister de Hollanda's actions is still uncertain: while a tough position against Creative Commons is being interpreted by some bloggers as a clear move backwards in the debate about digital culture in Brazil, others believe the change is an opportunity to discuss copyright. As a matter of fact, groups such as the community “Transparência Hacker”, a forum of transparency and open data activists in Brazil, have debated whether or not all content created [pt] by the Brazilian Government should rather be in the public domain, following the principle of dissemination of public information highlighted in the Constitution.

This article was proofread by Janet Gunter.

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