Brazil's Canto Livre Project: The Emergence of Society's Creativity
By Ronaldo Lemos
Brazil has been playing a very important role in the international sphere regarding the discussion of alternative uses for the Intellectual Property system. By way of example, Brazil and Argentina proposed to the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2004 the so-called “Development Agenda”, seeking to strike a proper balance between the rights of intellectual property owners and the interests of society as whole.
Besides such Brazilian initiatives in the international sphere, several other projects are being put in practice to demonstrate the possibilities of reconciling open knowledge regimes, economic development and cultural production. An important example is “Canto Livre”, a project aimed at building an open creative environment for Brazilian music, relying on the idea of sharing and remixing, on the possibilities of collective creation, and on intellectual generosity.
“Canto Livre” is Portuguese for free singing - “free” as in “free jazz”, not as in “free lunch”. It also stands for free corner, a place where everyone is welcome to participate and to engage in activities related to music. The project was created after the idea of Gilberto Gil, Brazil´s Minister of Culture, and one of its most important musicians.) Music is the soul of Brazilian society. Rhythms like samba and maracatu help to define the very essence of what being a Brazilian means.
In spite of that, the Brazilian musical market becomes increasingly alienated from the real musical production in the country. A very significant portion of Brazilian music today is produced on the fringes of the market and on the fringes of Intellectual Property. Examples include the musical scene known as “tecno-brega”, taking place in the city of Belém, state of Pará. In that city, a parallel music industry has been active for years. The "tecno-brega" parties attract every weekend thousands of people in the outskirts of Belém for "sound system parties". A couple hundred new records are produced and released every year by local artists, but both the production and distribution of these records take place outside the traditional music industry.
This music is born “free”, in the sense that copyright protection is not part of the business model developed by the tecno-brega scene. The CD is considered as a mere advertising piece, in the sense that it works as vehicle for advertising the different sound system parties taking place every week. Artists make money through innovative business models. By way of example, they record their live presentations in the parties in “real-time", and sell them immediately after the concerts. Accordingly, the audience is able to go back home with a CD containing the concert that they have just attended. The tecno-brega DJ´s usually acknowledge in their live presentations the presence of people from various neighborhoods, and this acknowledgement is of great value to the audience, leading thousands to buy copies of the recorded live presentation.
This practice to record “live” presentations for immediate selling obtained worldwide attention when the North-American rock band, "The Pixies" started doing the same thing during their 2004 world reunion tour. The press praised such practice as an innovative business model for musicians in the digital era. Little did they know that the same practice had been in place for at least 3 years in the tecno-brega scene in the city of Belém.
Such “under the radar” institutional arrangements can play an important role in reshaping the interplay between media, culture and the role of IP rights in the developing world. That is especially true when one considers the fact that in examples such as the above, copyright is simply not a factor. In this sort of business model, “piracy” is either irrelevant or economically impracticable.
The “Canto Livre” is building an online platform for all Brazilian music in the fringes to emerge. The platform is decentralized, relying on a certified P2P infrastructure, where you have to identify yourself in order to upload music, but not to download it. Additionally, Canto Livre offers a Creative Commons interface. All the music being made available under the project can be licensed according to the Creative Commons model. The goal is to make available three types of content: a) public domain works; b) public and private archives, made available by their owners; c) all sorts of musical works, which can be uploaded by any musician. Whole scenes like the tecno-brega, the funk carioca, the forró from the Amazon, and several others, will benefit from a global distribution tool, allowing the scenes to expand in an unprecedented fashion.
In short, what the “Canto Livre” project does is to recognize that, especially in the developing world, musical creativity is much larger in society than in the market. In Brazil, cultural production taking place in a decentralized fashion has become much more important than the culture being produced within the “cultural industry”. Providing a place for all this creativity to emerge is the mission of Canto Livre. That will help to disseminate the Brazilian culture globally, and to promote economic and cultural inclusion for several creative communities within the country which are today estranged by the existing traditional market alternatives.
For more information on the Canto Livre project, please go to:
www.direitorio.fgv.br/cts (Portuguese only)
Ronaldo Lemos is the director of the Center for Law & Technology at the Fundação Getulio Vargas Law School in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is also the director of the Creative Commons project in the country.