[A2k] Ministry of Culture in Brazil - my account

Ronaldo Lemos ronaldolemos123 at gmail.com
Mon Mar 14 12:17:10 PDT 2011

I would like to share my post at Freedom to
Tinker<http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/>about the Ministry of Culture
in Brazil and hot it reversed its policies
regarding the copyright reform.

Best regards,


A Legacy at Risk: How the new Ministry of Culture in Brazil reversed its
digital agenda
By Ronaldo Lemos <http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/user/rlemos> - Posted on
March 14th, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da
become a prominent figure in the political world. When he completed
second and last term last December, 87% of Brazilians approved his
government, an unprecedented high rate. So it is not surprising that his
successor Dilma Roussef <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dilma_Rousseff>, the
first woman elected president in Brazil, took office with his strong support
and the promise of continuity.

However, disappointment about that promise is growing, at least in regard to
one of Lula’s landmark policies: his support to the so-called “digital
culture” policies. “Digital Culture” is the expression Brazilians use to
refer to a broad agenda. Its principle is that technology is a crucial tool
for cultural policies, especially because it allows the democratization of
access, and the production and dissemination of cultural artifacts. It
includes also the reform of copyright, especially because the Brazilian
copyright has become notoriously
preventing consumers from uploading their CD´s into an iPod, a library from
digitizing an old book for preservation, or a professor from using excerpts
of a film in classroom. Finally, the digital culture agenda also includes
the support to open licensing models, such as free software or Creative

These policies were successfully deployed by Gilberto Gil, a popular
musician appointed Minister of Culture in 2003. He was profiled as early as
2004 by Wired Magazine
<http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.11/linux.html>as a champion of
free culture and free software. Mr. Gil became such a
popular politician in the country that some started calling him “the Lula of
Lula”, in reference to his high popularity and progressive policies, within
an already popular and progressive government.

Mr. Gil’s policies were continued by his successor (and former chief of
staff) Juca Ferreira, who was appointed Minister of Culture in 2008 after
Gil resigned to devote more time to his music career. One of the most
successful policies implemented by Gil/Juca was the creation of the
so-called “cultural hotspots”. The
resources to grassroots cultural initiatives and organizations to
acquire multimedia production equipment and broadband Internet. More than
4,000 hotspots were created, spread over more than 1,000 cities in the
country. Many of them in poor areas, rural communities, or favelas (shanty

Mr. Gil described the idea of the hotspots as an “anthropological tao-in”,
in reference to the Chinese therapeutic massage that when applied to the
right spots of the body, awakens its internal energy. According to his view,
with the right incentives, it was possible to energize and foster cultural
practices in places often neglected. His view was that every citizen should
be considered a producer, and not only a consumer of culture. The hotspots
should provide the tools necessary for access, production, and dissemination
of local culture, especially for those coming from poor or peripheral areas.

Information technology and the hacker
ethic<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_ethic>was an integral part
of that vision, including incentives for the adoption
of free software and Creative Commons, what eventually led to a national
discussion about the impact of copyright over cultural production, spurring
the the ongoing copyright reform process.

As Mr. Gil put it in his own words in 2005, at a
delivered at NYU:

*I, Gilberto Gil, Brazilian citizen and citizen of the World, Minister of
Culture of Brazil, work with music, at the Ministry, and in all dimensions
of my life under the inspiration of the hacker ethic - and concerned with
the issues of my world and my time present me, such as the issue of digital
inclusion, the issue of free software and the issue of regulation and
development of the production and dissemination of audiovisual content by
any means, for any purpose.
I want indeed for the Ministry of Culture of Brazil to be a laboratory for
new ideas, capable of inventing new procedures for the world’s creative
industries, and capable of proposing suggestions aimed at overcoming the
present dead ends – I did indeed think that my country should dare and not
wait for solutions to come from outside, from societies that would tell us
Brazilians which path should be followed for our development, as if our
future could only be our becoming a nation such as the ones that exist here
or in Europe.*

Gil´s speech seems now almost lost in a distant time. The reason is that the
newly appointed Ministry of Culture, Mrs. Ana de
has taken advantage of her first weeks in office to reverse much of what was
built in the past 8 years. By way of example, one of her first actions was
to remove<http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110209/04320213024/brazils-new-culture-minister-dumps-creative-commons-ministrys-website.shtml>the
Creative Commons license from the Ministry’s website, without any
note. The license had been used for the past 6 years, and the Ministry of
Culture was actually the pioneer in its adoption at the government level. It
is worth noting that the CC licenses continue to be used at other government
branches, including the official weblog <http://blog.planalto.gov.br/> of
president Dilma Roussef. Ironically, at the same day the licenses were taken
down by the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Planning issued a normative
instruction <http://convergenciadigital.uol.com.br/inf/in_softwarelivre.pdf>fostering
the adoption of open licenses, and expressly mentioning Creative

This contradiction led prominent politicians in Brazil, including Congress
member Paulo Teixeira, to claim that the Ministry of Culture has engaged in
policies that conflict with the overall direction of the Federal Government.
Mr. Teixeira reminds<http://www.cartamaior.com.br/templates/materiaMostrar.cfm?materia_id=17343>that
during the presidential campaign, president Dilma Roussef met with
Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, during an important campaign
She also publicly committed <http://mariafro.com.br/wordpress/?p=23731> to
go ahead with the copyright reform and the digital culture agenda. Before
that, in 2009, both president Lula and Dilma (then his Secretary of State)
attended together the International Free Software Forum (FISL 10), one of
the largest free software global events, which takes place in the city of
Porto Alegre. There, Lula's
on his support to digital culture, Internet freedom and free

Other source of criticism is the proximity of the new Minister of Culture
with the copyright collecting societies. By way of example, in her first
weeks in office, the Minister agreed to meet with Hildebrando Pontes, a
lawyer that works for the collecting societies who has become notorious for
arguing that copyright should last
At the same time, the Ministry declined to meet with representatives of
civil society, including those from the “cultural hotspots” program. She
then fired the chief copyright officer who led the reform process for the
past 6 years, and appointed Mrs. Marcia Regina Barbosa, a lawyer who worked
with Hildebrando Pontes.

Collecting societies are a controversial institution in Brazil. They face
strong discontentment from rights holders, who claim they are not paid
properly. They also face discontentment from their paying “customers”, who
claim their criteria for setting royalty prices are simply obscure. They
have also been declared by congress inquiry
as lacking transparency and clear accounting. One of the goals of
the copyright reform initiated by Mr. Gilberto Gil was precisely to
implement a minimum set of regulation over the collecting societies. By law
they have the monopoly over their business, but unlike other countries, no
regulation applies to their activities, which remain excused from any sort
of independent assessment. Regulation is also supported by many prominent
Brazilian musicians <http://brasilmusica.com.br/site/destaque/terceira-via/>,
who have recently become vocal about the issue.

The Ministry of Culture change of policy has drawn the attention of both
national and international organizations. Even before the Minister´s
inauguration, an open letter <http://www.cartaaberta.org.br/> subscribed by
more that 1,500 representatives of civil society organizations in Brazil was
posted online expressing concern with the possible change of direction.
Folha de São Paulo, the largest newspaper in the country, wrote a piece
about the letter. The Minister, however, declined to provide any comments to
the journalist. To this date, the letter has not been replied or even
acknowledged by the Minister or her staff.

The Minister´s actions, together with the absence of clear statements
justifying her decisions, has generated considerable uproar. A public
campaign called Sou MinCC <http://twibbon.com/join/sou-mincc> (“I am MinCC”)
emerged (MinC is the acronym for Ministry of Culture - MinCC is the result
of MinC + CC, in reference to the Creative Commons licenses). Besides that,
the Commons Strategies Group, an international NGO, prepared an open
by Silke Helfrich at the World Social Forum in Dakar) to President
Dilma, also expressing concern about the new policies. The letter was
released on February, 21st, and gathered the support of organizations such
as Creative Commons, the Free Knowledge Institute (Netherlands), La
Quadrature du Net (France), among others.

This is an important moment for the history of cultural policies in Brazil.
There is a shared feeling that much of what was built in the past 8 years is
at risk. A heated debate took over the Brazilian public sphere, with
articles being published by all the major newspapers. The collecting
societies and their members have taken the stand to argue in favor of the
Minister, claiming that the decisions taken so fare are a “sovereign act”,
and that the collecting societies should indeed be exempt of any external
supervision, and the copyright reform should be halted for good.

But the place where the debate is really developing on a daily basis is the
Internet. Bloggers, twittterers and social network members have engaged
fiercely in the discussion of the current situation. Many of them were too
young to even acknowledge the appointment of Gilberto when took office. It
is a new generation that has risen for the first time to debate the future
of culture and technology policies in Brazil. Inadvertently, the new
Minister Ana de Hollanda is contributing to the emergence of new generation
of voices online. One now can only hope that she will eventually listen to

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