Governing global digital trade in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic

Since January 2020, the IFCCD has partnered with the Groupe de recherche sur l’intégration continentale, attached to the Centre d’études sur l’intégration et la mondialisation (CEIM) of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), to produce an international watch on culture and e-commerce.

The sixth edition focuses on six interrelated international issues: (1) the plurilateral negotiations on electronic commerce; (2) the efforts of powerful business associations to promote new digital trade rules; (3) the political confrontation between the US administration and several national governments regarding the adoption of digital services taxes; (4) the multilateral negotiations on digital taxation; (5) the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement between New Zealand, Chile and Singapore, as well as (6) the trade negotiations between the US and the UK.

Global online platforms, the winning actors of the great lockdown? The case of the music industry

Since January 2020, the IFCCD has partnered with the Groupe de recherche sur l’intégration continentale, attached to the Centre d’études sur l’intégration et la mondialisation (CEIM) of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), to produce an international watch on culture and e-commerce.

The fifth edition analyzes the effects of the great lockdown on the strategies of global online platforms in the music industry.

Online platforms and culture: the winning actors of the great lockdown?

Since January 2020, the IFCCD has partnered with the Groupe de recherche sur l’intégration continentale, attached to the Centre d’études sur l’intégration et la mondialisation (CEIM) of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), to produce an international watch on culture and e-commerce.

The fourth edition examines how the great lockdown has increased the power of video-on-demand platforms in the global cultural market.

Cultural Diversity and COVID-19: The Road to Recovery

UNESCO will hold the second ResiliArt debate in partnership with the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity on May 14, from 2 to 4 p.m. (Paris time).

The containment measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic have severely affected the creative sectors, limiting the capacity to create, produce and distribute cultural expressions worldwide. The deconfinement phase will allow a gradual resumption of activities compatible with the physical distancing measures. Artists, cultural professionals, cultural institutions, small and medium-sized enterprises, associations, organizations and governments must reflect on the revival of the sector in a context where the VIDOC-19 pandemic remains a major threat to human health. The cultural activities that can be resumed will be subject to constraints that will have significant human and financial impacts. Some activities will only be able to resume in the very long term, particularly those that depend on international mobility. The situation therefore requires a higher level of public support than usual, as well as a review of business models, in order to maintain diverse, sustainable and dynamic cultural ecosystems.

The recovery of the cultural sector faces major challenges globally, such as:

  • Inequalities between countries are likely to be exacerbated by the crisis. Developing countries are calling for international cultural cooperation, already fragile and tenuous before the pandemic, to address the situation, in a context where efforts are mainly concentrated at the national level.
  • Domestically, the situation threatens the weakest links in the cultural ecosystem. There is a significant risk of increased inequalities affecting women, indigenous peoples and persons belonging to minorities in particular.
  • While the transition to the digital environment is accelerating, cultural policies are often not adapted to deal with rapid technological developments. Large multinational companies are monopolizing markets without contributing to the cultural ecosystems in terms of funding, discoverability or copyright protection.
  • The already significant digital divide between countries and regions could become even more pronounced at a time when the world is facing a pressing need for innovation. While the crisis precipitates the transition to the digital environment, the development of necessary systems and platforms requires scientific, technical and economic resources that are inequitably distributed.


UNESCO launched the ResiliArt movement in April 2020 and organized a first debate on April 15 with CISAC. The second debate will take place on May 14 and UNESCO has chosen to partner with IFCCD, which is proud to co-present the event.

ResiliArt is a global movement that consists of a series of virtual debates with key industry professionals and artists—both renown and emerging—that raises awareness of the far-reaching impact of the current containment measures on the cultural sector. It aims to support Member States in the development of policies and financial mechanisms that can help individuals and creative communities overcome the crisis.

This ResiliArt debate will be structured around four key themes:

  • The constraints faced by cultural professionals, creators and artists in resuming their activities and the measures put in place to support them;
  • The adoption of measures and policies to support and promote the diversity of cultural expressions, particularly in the digital environment;
  • New international relations and modalities of cultural cooperation;
  • The sustainability of new forms of creation and of the expression of cultural diversity.


The debate will take place on May 14, from 2pm to 4pm (Paris time). After two rounds of questions, the public will have the opportunity to ask questions to the panelists during a Q&A session.

The panelists will be led by a moderator. They will answer tailored questions while engaging in a dialogue and building and reacting to other speakers’ responses.

The debate will take place on an existing online platform that allows unlimited number of audiences to follow the discussions as well as post questions using a chat function.


The debate will be moderated by UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto Ottone. Participants, representing different geographical regions and artistic disciplines, will include:

  • Anitta, Singer, songwriter and actress (Brazil)
  • Ferne Downey, Actress and President of the International Federation of Actors (Canada)
  • Cheick Oumar Sissoko, Film director and Secretary-General of the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers (Mali)
  • Pascal Rogard, Director General of the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers (France)
  • Fouzia Saeed, Director General of the National Arts Council of Pakistan (Pakistan)
  • Mohamed Saif Al-Afkham, President of the International Theatre Institute (United Arab Emirates)
  • Jana Vozarova, CEO of LITA, Society of authors (Slovakia)

Join the debate

You will be able to follow the debate using the link below. The link will go live on May 14, 2020.


Support for the cultural sector is growing around the world… unevenly

We quickly realized that the cultural sector was going to suffer enormously from the Covid-19 pandemic. A multitude of shows, performances, festivals, film shoots, book fairs and other cultural events were cancelled, and many cultural spaces, bookstores, cinemas and museums closed their doors.

All over the world, initiatives from artists, civil society organizations, funding agencies and businesses have emerged, followed in several countries by announcements of support for the cultural sector.

The IFCCD initially hesitated to take stock of these initiatives, as others have begun work and the situation is evolving rapidly. The IFCCD is doing so today primarily to support its members who want their governments to put in place measures to support artists, creators, professionals and organizations in the cultural sector. The analysis is therefore limited to countries where the IFCCD has members or partners.

While not perfect, this brief overview shows that support measures are rare outside of the world’s richest countries. In some countries there are even declines. This is a situation of great concern for the diversity of cultural expressions, both locally and internationally, and it risks further deepening global inequalities in the circulation of cultural goods and services. In many countries, cultural policies were already weak or even absent. Greater reliance may need to be placed on solidarity and community networks to provide some support to the cultural sector in these countries, but also on the role that organizations such as UNESCO can and should play internationally.

Culture in times of pandemic: a remedy that needs to be taken care of

On April 22, UNESCO organized the first virtual meeting of Ministers of Culture. The meeting lasted more than seven hours and gave the floor to 130 ministers from all continents. The IFCCD team attended the meeting and was thus able to improve its monitoring of measures in support of the cultural sector, but also to identify a number of global issues and opportunities for culture in times of pandemic.

  1. Recognition of the importance of culture

Most ministers stressed the invaluable contribution of culture in helping people through the crisis. Several of them illustrated the social function of culture or associated culture with a right:

  • Culture and art are powerful tools of struggle that can help us overcome the common challenge (Jordan)
  • The right to culture is not a luxury, it is a pillar for our economies and for the achievement of sustainable development goals (Germany)
  • We experiment therapy through art, book, smile (Armenia)
  • Culture is the foundation of society (Netherlands)
  • Culture is a process of humanization, with a restorative power. The pandemic is frightening, culture will be able to save us, while waiting for a vaccine (Argentina)
  • Culture is a means of communication and protection against stress. Cross-cutting public policies are needed to make culture a human right (Panama)
  • Culture is a form of resistance (Bahrain)
  • Culture is a common good, a right for citizens. It has a role of social cohesion. The crisis shows that culture can be a lifeline. Its contribution to physical and mental well-being must be recognized (Spain)

Several ministers stressed the contribution of culture to sustainable development and even to the objectives for 2030 (Greece, Lebanon, Spain, Costa Rica, Germany), while others, such as Cuba and Azerbaijan, see this crisis as an opportunity for the revival of artistic creation and a broad extension of artistic and cultural practices in society through digital dissemination and communication.

  1. An important mobilization for culture

Despite the inequalities between the various countries, support for the cultural sector is very significant. The measures most often used are the adjustment of contributions and dues, deferral of obligations (social security contributions, taxes), the granting of wage subsidies and loans, the conduct of surveys and impact analyses, the establishment of emergency funds and even food assistance.

Mali sees in the current crisis, despite its disastrous consequences, an opportunity to align the cultural policies of African countries with the objectives of the Charter for the Cultural Renaissance of Africa: “any African cultural policy must necessarily enable peoples to flourish in order to assume greater responsibility for their own development”. Other countries, such as Jamaica, are trying to encourage the transition of their informal economy to the formal economy, which would better protect artists and creators. Elsewhere, cultural sponsorship appears to be a realistic source of income for the cultural sector.

Among the many measures enumerated by Peru, some are targeted at indigenous peoples, particularly in the Amazon, to isolate them from the pandemic while giving them access to culture. The recommendations produced had been translated into 20 languages, a measure similar to that implemented in Mexico, where health manuals had been translated into 60 languages.

Large parts of the cultural sector, particularly heritage sites, festivals and museums, depend on tourism, which has a major impact on attendance and attendance. If the crisis is affecting the cultural sector even in countries where there are no reported cases, such as Lesotho or the Cook Islands, it is because tourism has been completely devastated by the pandemic. Indeed, several ministers placed more emphasis on this sector than on the cultural sector. Some countries want to focus on domestic tourism, but not everyone can do that. Others, such as Kazakhstan, where the national tourism agency organizes virtual tours of the country, are relying on digital technology to remain an attractive destination.

  1. Towards an explosion of platforms and online offerings?

It seems that in all regions of the world, dozens of platforms are being created with the support of governments and public institutions. Many measures have been put in place to provide virtual access to museums, libraries, heritage sites and galleries, while other platforms provide access to cultural expressions.

In Azerbaijan, for example, the measures adopted have made it possible to redirect 80% of cultural activities towards the Internet, including dissemination on social media. After the crisis, one of the challenges will be to ensure that culture is not confined to the virtual sphere. For the Minister of Bahrain, the opportunity must be seized to promote virtual reality, archaeological discoveries, access to intangible heritage and online music.

  1. The pandemic is likely to increase global inequalities

Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, stressed this at the very beginning of the meeting: inequalities, which are already significant, are likely to increase even further as a result of the pandemic.

The minister from Dominica said her country is barely recovering from the consequences of Hurricane Maria, which caused a 226% drop in GDP. Other countries, such as Mozambique, which was hit by two cyclones last year, or Lesotho, would like to develop an online content offer that respects copyright, but would need help from international partners.

The vital need to accelerate the digital transition highlights digital divides that will aggravate inequalities between countries, but also within territories. The Chilean minister pointed out that several communities in her country do not have access to the Internet and this is the case in many countries. Several other countries reported a lack of training and technical skills and the difficulties encountered by more vulnerable groups (migrants, indigenous people, women).

  1. A call for international cooperation

Many countries have called for substantial international support. The Sudanese minister explained that developing countries already allocate few resources to culture in normal times. Currently, the fight against the virus is taking up all the space. The Chadian minister referred to the “competition of emergencies” in his country which, like others in the Sahel, is caught up in the problems of terrorism.

There were fewer responses. Germany stands out for the development of partnerships in Africa and the Middle East for cultural projects and the development of digital platforms by the Goethe Institute. His Minister added that no country faced the challenges alone and that these approaches were a source of learning for them. For his part, the Minister of San Marino proposed that cooperation between states be made more concrete by encouraging the circulation of works of art.

  1. A call to make Web giants pay

In her introduction, Audrey Azoulay suggested integrating platforms that disseminate cultural expressions via the Internet into cultural policies and funding mechanisms. However, relatively few ministers referred to this type of measure.

The ministers of Canada and Quebec were the only ones to make this call so clearly. The Canadian minister wants to adopt measures to ensure that all players contribute to national cultural ecosystems. The Quebec minister wants multinational companies to contribute to the system, particularly by promoting the discoverability of content, and for creators to reap a better share of the benefits.

Ministers from Lebanon and Belgium stressed the importance of intellectual property rights and fair remuneration of artists on online platforms.

  1. What role for UNESCO?

The Algerian minister stressed that culture has become one of the rare areas of collaboration between States and that UNESCO’s role is to foster exchanges, set up international mutual assistance mechanisms and develop digital platforms to promote access to heritage and culture.

The Minister of the United Arab Emirates, for her part, proposed that UNESCO develop a model for the protection of intellectual property in the context of the digital transition.

Finally, others called on UNESCO to document the impacts of Covid-19 on culture.

What prospects for the diversity of cultural expressions?

Very important issues were raised during this long meeting and UNESCO’s efforts to support a global space for exchange and reflection are to be applauded.  The ResiliArt initiative is very relevant in this regard and the IFCCD is very pleased to collaborate with UNESCO in organizing a second debate on May 14.

This discussion highlights at least two urgent needs to support a revival of cultural activities that is sustainable, more equitable and ensures a diversity of expressions. First, that of rethinking cultural cooperation at a time when the health crisis is putting pressure on already scarce resources in this field and when restrictions on mobility could last for a long time. Secondly, that of guaranteeing the contribution of the giants of the Web to cultural ecosystems in order to generate new sources of income and enhance local cultural expressions.



Global trade facing neo-mercantilism: cultural issues

Since January 2020, the IFCCD has partnered with the Groupe de recherche sur l’intégration continentale, attached to the Centre d’études sur l’intégration et la mondialisation (CEIM) of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), to produce an international watch on culture and e-commerce.

The third edition focuses on the place of culture in the European Union’s new economic partnerships.

From WTO negotiations on e-commerce to African free trade area: A state of play

Since January 2020, the IFCCD has partnered with the Groupe de recherche sur l’intégration continentale, attached to the Centre d’études sur l’intégration et la mondialisation (CEIM) of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), to produce an international watch on culture and e-commerce.

The second edition of this watch deals with plurilateral negotiations on e-commerce and looks in particular at the African Continental Free Trade Area.

The review of audiovisual policy in Europe : Betweeen cultural sovereignty and digital globalisation

Since January 2020, the IFCCD has partnered with the Groupe de recherche sur l’intégration continentale, attached to the Centre d’études sur l’intégration et la mondialisation (CEIM) of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), to produce an international watch on culture and e-commerce.

The first edition of this watch deals with the reform of the European Union’s audiovisual policy.

“Canada's Communications Future” Report: Important Recommendations for Cultural Sovereignty

The Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (CDCE) congratulates the members of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel for their important contribution to the modernization of legislation governing Canada's communications sector. The CDCE welcomes the call for urgent action and the importance given to cultural sovereignty in the report, and urges the government to act on it.

Many of the panel's recommendations are consistent with the priorities put forward by the CDCE. "We are particularly pleased to note that one of the three immediate actions recommended is the adoption of a new exemption order to ensure that digital platforms contribute to the financing and development of Canadian content," said Jérôme Payette, CDCE Treasurer.

Among the CDCE's other priorities outlined in the report is the granting of new powers to the CRTC. The fact that it can impose spending and discovery requirements on all media content companies is an excellent thing. Similarly, the CDCE is pleased that the report calls for transparency requirements for media content companies with respect to online content consumption data and criteria for recommendation algorithms.

The CDCE and its members will continue their analysis of the report and lobbying in the coming weeks, with a view to having short-term measures adopted. Questions remain about the lack of recommendations for telecommunications service providers to contribute to the financing of cultural content, a choice that the CDCE finds difficult to explain given the profits that these businesses generate through growing access to online cultural expressions. Other uncertainties remain regarding the effects of the proposed changes on financing and the diversity of cultural content.

"This is an important step that is coming to an end and the process of reviewing the broadcasting and telecommunications laws must now move forward," said Jérôme Payette. "The government must now take the necessary measures to ensure that digital players contribute to the funding and development of cultural content. It is a matter of survival for the sector. »

As the report rightly points out: “Canada and its leaders need to get this right – the nation's cultural and national sovereignty, economic prosperity and democratic values are at stake.”


For more information
Bill Skolnik, CDCE Co-chair
Céline De Dianous, Communication and Research Officer

CDCE Welcomes Appointment of New Minister of Canadian Heritage

The Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (CDCE) would like to congratulate Steven Guilbeault on his appointment as head of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

“We are very pleased to welcome Minister Steven Guilbeault as head of the Department of Canadian Heritage,” commented Bill Skolnik, CDCE Co-Chair. “The cultural sector faces several major challenges and the Liberals made it clear during their campaign that they wish to address them in the first year of their mandate.” The CDCE actively mobilized before the election to insist that Canada's cultural policies apply to the Web. “We now encourage the Minister to continue the ongoing legislative reviews, but we also ask him to undertake immediate actions, which are within his reach,” added Bill Skolnik.

One of these priority actions is to require the CRTC to amend its new media exemption so that programming undertakings contribute to the financing and promotion of Canadian content and deliver data on the cultural content accessed by Canadians. The CRTC must also be quickly given the necessary powers to enforce these new rules.

The CDCE also calls on the Minister to take action to ensure that Internet and cellular telephone service providers also contribute to the financing of Canadian content. It should be noted that the revenues of these companies are constantly growing, largely due to access to cultural content, which takes up 72% of the time spent online by Canadians.

All new financial contributions from online programming companies and telecommunications companies should be directed to existing cultural funds such as the Canada Media Fund, Musicaction/ Factor and the Radiostar/ Starmaker Fund.

The revision of the Copyright Act must also be at the top of the new Minister's priorities, including extending the private copying regime to digital media and devices that provide access to cultural content, and reducing the number of exceptions provided for in the Act. The remaining exceptions need to provide compensation for the rights holders.

Finally, the CDCE welcomes the consensus that emerged during the election campaign to levy the consumption tax on digital products and services and to tax the revenues generated in Canada by the Web Giants. These tax measures are in addition to the other measures requested for online programming undertakings and telecommunications companies.

The CDCE reiterates its congratulations to the new Minister and assures him of immediate availability to work with his team in the implementation of policies that benefit creators, artists, entrepreneurs and cultural professionals.


For more information
Bill Skolnik, CDCE Co-President
Céline De Dianous, Communication and Research Officer

The CDCE congratulates the newly elected members of the House of Commons and invites them to act quickly to save our culture

The Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (CDCE) congratulates the MPs elected on Monday, October 21, 2019, and invites them to take note of the important mobilization of the cultural sector during the election campaign.

The Coalition, made up of organizations such as the Directors Guild of Canada, ACTRA, the Songwriters Association of Canada and many others, led a major campaign to protect and promote Canada's cultural expressions in the digital environment. Under the slogan "Save Our Culture", the creative industries have mobilized to demand that our cultural policies be applied online.

“The increase in campaigns and initiatives on cultural issues in recent months reflects an unsustainable situation for artists, creators, professionals and cultural enterprises in Canada: loss of visibility of local works, falling copyright revenues, declining funding for content development”, said Bill Skolnik, CDCE Co-Chair.

The federal election marks a new stage in this mobilization. The Liberal Party made several commitments during this campaign: taxation of the Web giants' revenues, revision of broadcasting and telecommunications laws in the coming year to ensure that all players who benefit from the system contribute to it (offering and promoting Canadian content, contributing to the creation of Canadian content), increased funding for Telefilm Canada, strengthening the mandate of Radio Canada, etc.

“It is our hope that the new team in place will work on implementing these commitments in the coming weeks”, said Bill Skolnik. “We invite the new government to work with the other political parties to obtain quick results and improve their proposals. The culture sector needs a global mobilization and we are ready to make our contribution to the work of the new government now."

The Coalition is calling on the new federal government to take immediate action to ensure that digital platforms contribute to the funding and promotion of Canadian cultural content, and that telecommunications service providers contribute to the financing of creative activity in Canada.

The revision of the Copyright Act must also be one of the new government's priorities in the field of culture. Authors, creators and professionals in the sector urgently need a legislative framework that allows them to be remunerated at the level of the value generated by their content. The new Copyright Act must be adapted to contemporary reality so that digital platforms pay rights to those who own them in Canada and the private copying regime includes technological devices that provide access to cultural content. The number of exceptions provided for in the Act must be reduced and the remaining exceptions must result in compensation for creators.

All these measures must be taken quickly because the cultural sector can no longer wait. In a constantly evolving digital world, with the continuous development of technologies and the uncertainties associated with the deployment of artificial intelligence, these fundamental laws, which date back to the 1990s, must be adapted. The future of our cultural ecosystems is at stake, we must act now.


For more information:

Bill Skolnik, CDCE Co-chair

Céline De Dianous, Communication and Research Officer