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  • Dòra Kelemen

Fátima São Simão and the idea of copywrong

Photos by: CreativeMornings

About Fatima

Fátima was born in 1981 in Porto. In the very same city in which she was born she would go on to complete her degree in the field of economy at the University of Porto. She attended an Erasmus program in Italy, and went on to study in London, where she completed her masters degree in Cultural Policy and Management. During this period she worked as a performer in films as well as in the theatre and later co-founded a performing arts group called Sem Palco, in 2010. She has been completing her studies as a PhD student in Art and Design in Porto.

Since 2009 she has been working at the UPTEC (the Science and Technology Park of the University of Porto) where she became a director of the Portuguese Creative Industries Center (PINC). Nowadays she is the UPTEC’s director responsible for the develompent and continues her mentorship to the creative startups as well as the department of the coordination of communication. Not only is she a director of all these above-mentioned sections, but she also leads as an executive manager on an online page called, which is a medialab for citizenship and the public lead of Creative Commons in Portugal, trying to clarify the advantages of using open licenses in business (especially for startups and kickstarting projects). Her special interests are the Portuguese economic and creative impacts of copyright.

She explained on the page why the reason for this interest as:

After almost a decade supporting artists and creative entrepreneurs to set up their projects and develop sustainable business models around them, I always questioned myself about the role of authors’ rights (and copyright) in this context. At university I was told that copyright was a very important asset for creative businesses and professionals. The same happened in most policy documents I would come across as I started my job as director of a creative industries center in Porto. But that was not what I was observing neither with the creative startups nor with the artists I was helping… From my experience I soon realized I needed alternative tools to copyright if I wanted to contribute for the success of these projects. That’s when I decided to research more and eventually engaged with Creative Commons.

Fátima São Simão

„Let’s make the copyright right, right now!”

Utopia 500 volunteers Dora Kelemen (Hungary), Ilaria Arena (Italy) and Kristin Hansen (Estonia) have attended a morning session called CreativeMornings in one of the small restaurants of Espiga, Porto, where we had the opportunity to understand what „copywrong” is exactly about. The idea „copywrong” came from Fátima São Simão herself and was co-producted/intersected with the artistic experience of the performer Rogério Nuno Costa, the media artist Daniel Pinheiro, and the practice of the lawyer Teresa Nobre. The copywrong is a „performance-as-tool”, which has been developing in an effort to make artists understand how they can overcome from copyright laws complexity and obscurity.

After the Creative Morning session we asked Fátima São Simão for an interview and she kindly accepted.

Personal path – Performing

I started performing in films and in theatre in Porto, like amature of course, I have never went professional, but I started at the faculty of economics, where I was taking my degree and then I went from the faculty theatre group onto the university theatre group and eventually I became the president of the group. I didn’t know [it] then but they have that thing with managing the cultural subjects and it was actually one of the experiences that made me realize that this could be an interesting professional path to continue.

I did that for six years then sometimes I still have experiences with friends because sometimes they do some performances and they invite me depending on the subject.

Now I am working on a performance with two other artists, because of the copyright issues.

Role at the futureplaces and in the UPTEC - PINC

I went to study Cultural Policy and Management in London and one of the internships I had done was in the research institute of the university. They knew that l was doing this master and while l was still working/studying there, they talked to me and they [told me] about this whole Portuguese initiative they go through and one of them was the collaboration program between the UP and the University of Texas. They had this festival in the program because the program involved a PhD research program, masters in multimedia program and it involved a series of activities. One of them was a festival to communicate all this research to the public and they told me “Maybe, if you’re interested, after your master to work with us, this is going to be more or less at the same time you are finishing” and l said “Of course. Yes, l want to go do that!”

When I came back l started to work with them as a project coordinator for future places and l started to work with Prof. Vitor Alvares and since then l have worked with the festival and eventually the following year (2009) l was working because of the festival (now we only call it as a medialab). They asked me if l wanted to be involved in other activities in the university because they needed some help. One of these was a big application that the University of Porto was engaged in for the creation of the creative industries center in the northern region of Portugal. So, because l had just been studying and I was very much into this course, they said to me “why don’t you write this”. I was like ok why not, I’m doing things that I like and I they even paying me for it.

I was available to write the application and as part of the contribution of the university for this political project was the creation of the Creative Center for UPTEC - PINC, so this is how I started to work for/at the UPTEC and that is how l became the manager and director for this center. So l started from scratch, from the beginning writing the funding application and defining the project helping to do the operational part of all the strategy.

Develpoment of the Creative Commons in Portugal

That is something that came later on because once I was engaged in UPTEC one of my main tasks was to help their companies with their business and to support how they enter the market, how they structure their business, [and] how they find a client. As I was doing this there was something that was kind of not very clear to me even from the masters, which was the copyright issues. Everybody was telling me all the time that the copyright was so important, central to the creative industries, and I understood that in theory, but in practice, at least here in Portugal, being a very peripheric economy in terms of world business and working with small companies like startups, I was starting to understand that maybe this is not exactly the way I have been thought. And my experience was telling me that sometimes copyright was more a challenge, a barrier to these companies than actually an asset they could explore. So I wanted to find lawyers so they could help me to figure that out and who could [also] assist me whenever these companies had the problem, so l started to look for alternatives for this approach of protection to copyright (…).

I went to a conference to Barcelona where met a lady from an organization in Portugal and she mentioned Creative Commons and I already knew Creative Commons through Futureplaces, but I thought it was a very international thing and I had an idea what it was, but she mentioned that there was someone in Portugal working with them. She was the one whom I wanted to talk to, so I asked her for her contact and I ended up talking to Teresa Nobre. She was the legal leader of the project in Portugal and the one who brought the project to Portugal and we started to work together and I told her my questions, my doubts about this, so she started to clarify somethings and eventually we did some workshops together at PINC, she started to work with us at our school of startups.

She gives our intellectual property workshop at the school of startups and in 2013 she was inviting me to engage with the organization and start developing projects with them and that is how I got involved and since then we actually had a bit more hands so I could actually do some projects, so we developed the Creative Commons to business which is a way to show companies, how the use of open license could be interesting for the business marvels. Theresa has been developing projects for education mostly, she is behind the “Company right & copyright, right now!” to promote or to pressure some decisions of the European Parliament to keep exceptions interesting for education to and make sure that we have access to content at least for education. Now we are working on the copywrong project and meanwhile we added two boys to the organization, (so we have a gender balance). They are working on agricultural projects and promoting creative commons to young businesses.

Is copyright really that complex?

Well, in practical terms it has become very complex. But, the principle of copyright is very simple, and this is something that was created in the 18th century and the idea was; it was a law that would protect the creation rights of the artist or the creator or whatever client for his lifetime so he could benefit from his work and few years after that. In the beginning it was fourteen years after his death because of the children, of the widow, of the family in general. So he needed some more time and even for the publishers to continue to recover a bit in the investment they did, so this was in England and this was the way copyright was born in England.

The idea of this was to make sure that the creator could benefit from his work, but after a certain while the community could benefit because of education, cultural developments, so that’s why the creative public domain. At a certain point the work was going to public domain. This is the principle of copyright in the British law and in the USA.

In continental Europe it comes the author’s rights, which is more or less the equivalent, comes from the human rights and from the freedom of expression. There is a difference between the author’s rights and copyright. This is already a problem that starts the complexity of the situation because we are talking about different things and what the main difference is that while in the UK the idea was to protect the value of the thing, the right to copy, the object. In France the idea was to protect the author, not the object, but the person. So we have the same kind of law in Portugal, it has not only economic right, but it has moral rights too, you can do whatever you like with the piece because you bought it. Whereas in the UK or in the US you can’t.

The complexity starts here and what made things even more complicated was that in the US there was this particular situation in the late 90’s that started to push copyright to be even more complex and longer. Disney was going to lose the rights over Mickey Mouse, so Mickey Mouse was going to go into a public domain, so the company started to pressure the government in order to extend copyright duration, so that they could keep exploring Mickey Mouse for a longer time and prevent other people from doing it. This law passed and it became famous, it was the “Mickey Mouse act” and what it said was that copyright would have to last all the authors life plus 90 years, so in your lifetime if you’re contemporary to the author you wouldn’t even probably ever see the work in public domain.

Now it is reduced a little bit, the US has 70 years, but the fact is that there is a lot of work from people that are from our generation that will never have access to the public domain. From then, it became a mess, it has a lot to do with the internet. The fact is that we share a lot of stuff and these companies want to control. That is why l started to go deeper and doing research about this, because in the end what l understood was that copyright is more than an economic tool, it is a tool for power. It has economic effects, and it also has cultural effects and this changes the way you see things. You see a lot of American films because of the commercial contracts between companies and this is a way to keep into maintain power influence. (…)

Global Summit in Toronto

The way we’ve been working up to now is: the Creative Commons is an unorganization, because we are very unorganized. In the sense that we only exist virtually, we are a bunch of volunteers, people that are really concern about this issue all over the world. The major job of this team is to get funding and to try to track all the purchases that are going around the world. One of the ways we have to do this is to organize a summit in every two years, so that everyone can attend. This is one of the things which is funded by the headquarters. We all get to meet in some place of the world, such as in Buenos Aires, Seoul and now in Toronto. We use these moments to get to know the news, to meet each other, to see what projects we are doing all over the world, to see in which ways we can connect to each other because we go there to present the work we are doing and this is the way to justify why this fund is being used.

Nowadays, the internet gives a great chance to a lot of artists to make their creations visible, and the world wide web is a great opportunity, but also a great risk. The line between inspiration and plagiarism is really thin, her advice would be - to the young artists who decide to enter this virtual jungle and expose their works – to always be informed, because if you are informed, you are the one who decides, who controls, nobody else.

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