Since 1996, 23 April, World Book and Copyright Day, has brought several million people together in more than 100 countries of the South and the North in solemn celebration of the book’s multiple roles in the life of human societies. It has also been an opportunity for them to reflect on the place of the related issue of copyright.
This year, the eleventh celebration of the Day affords yet another opportunity for political decision-makers, economic operators and civil society stakeholders to honour the book in a thousand-and-one ways as a unique tool for expression, education and communication.
Much has been said about all the vital multiple roles of the book in the educational, cultural and economic sphere of societies today, with many emphasizing the dual nature of published products which, at one and the same time, are merchandise and works of the mind, industrial products and copyrighted fragments – protected by moral and economic rights – of the intangible heritage of humanity. Much has also been said about the book as the driving force behind a wide array of activities and professions that generate income directly or indirectly, thus constituting a major industrial factor in the economic, social and cultural development of all countries worldwide.
Yet another feature of the book, in addition to those already explored, seems to compel recognition today, namely the linguistic dimension of publishing.
The book is indeed also an instrument of expression that lives through and within a language. Each publication is created by the author choosing to use a specific language on the basis of complex considerations, and is intended for a readership with clearly identified language skills. A book is thus written, produced, exchanged, used and appreciated in a given language setting.
Now that the issue of languages seems to be gaining in importance on the international agenda, it is essential that the book be regarded more than ever before as a vehicle of vitality and language recognition.
Do the languages used in publishing reflect the linguistic diversity of the peoples of the world? What role can the publishing industry play in facilitating access to quality education for all that is adapted to learners’ needs in terms of the choice of languages available as well? Furthermore, how can it, transcending language boundaries, facilitate the exchange of books and publication content between countries, especially through translation?
23 April 2006 must also be a milestone day for copyright now that so many debates point to the need to preserve and promote it in the interest of both authors and the readership for which the works are intended. It is not in fact a separate subject, but merely another aspect of the same approach taken to promote cultural and linguistic diversity.
It is of primary importance today to question, reflect and take the best possible action in respect of the book and copyright. On the occasion of the eleventh World Book and Copyright Day, I solemnly invite all countries and UNESCO’s partners and friends to join us in the deliberations and action.