Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression calls upon the State Council to Nullify the Decision of the Minister of Culture to Ban Internet Sites Ministry of Culture Poses a Real Threat to Circulation of Information and Accessibility of Knowledge

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The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) filed a lawsuit no. 47853 for the year 64 before the Court of Administrative Justice in Cairo challenging the administrative decision of the Minister of Culture issued on Tuesday, 31 August 2010. The said decision provided for the closure of all internet websites that published “illegal” material, which means any audio or visual material in violation of Intellectual Property Law. The decision was announced in a written statement signed by Farouq Hosny, the Minister of Culture, which included that this decision was taken in response to a complaint submitted by the Egyptian Central Association of Audio and Video Producers (ECAAP) claiming that many websites broadcast material owned by producers who are ECAAP’s members without prior authorization. AFTE affirms that the distinction must be drawn between protection of the rights of the authors of protected material, and closure of the means through which these materials are published and made accessible to the public. If some internet websites publish original materials without the consent of their authors, the rights of these authors are not to be protected by shutting down these websites. Intellectual Property Law no. 83 for the year 2002 (Book III) determined the rules and procedures that are to be followed in order to protect intellectual property. Such procedures do not include the banning or blocking of internet websites or any other means of dissemination of information.

The decision includes a number of items. It states that the Central Office for Censorship of Artistic Materials is the body authorized to take inquiry measures concerning websites’ violations of the provisions of Intellectual Property Law. Moreover, the Artistic Materials Office is to conduct regular checks on websites, and issue a quarterly report with the findings of such check. In addition, the Office takes account of the relevant police reports, establishes a technical committee for follow-up, and is responsible for activating the provisions of article 188 of the Intellectual Property Law.

This decision not only imposes more restrictions on the free use of the electronic space, it also presents a real threat to the free circulation of information and access to knowledge.

There is an increasing since the year 2000 for creating a balance between the rights of authors on one hand and the right of the public to benefit from the creative contents. There is an increasing trend towards the Creative Commons (CC) licensing. This license allows authors and holders of the copyright of the creative content to determine for themselves the extent to which others may use their creative materials. It does so in a flexible manner that allows authors and copyright holders to retain their intellectual property rights, and allows the public to make use of the vast amount of creative works and information made available by the information revolution.

This decision constitutes a violation of many international instruments, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Both instruments (article 19) provide that everyone have the right to “seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, or in print.” Also relevant in this respect is paragraph 1 of article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which guarantees the right of every individual to receive information.

 

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