Debra Messing, Stephen Fry, Alyssa Milano, Mark Ruffalo, Arjun Gupta, Lilly Wachowski, Neil Gaiman, Kathleen Hanna, Amanda Palmer, Zoe Keating, and more have signed an open letter insisting countless lives must come before intellectual property rights.
In a scathing open letter, 275+ celebrities and artists across the spectrum of the arts are speaking up to support the sharing of lifesaving COVID-19 medical technology such as vaccines, ventilators, and tests with countries around the world. These signatures come amid the global spread of the Omnicron variant, and in addition to a delivery of 3 million petition signatures collected by 130 human rights groups, as well as a call from nurses unions in 28 countries to end what many have declared ‘vaccine apartheid’.
Various profit-motivated lobbying blitzes from pharmaceutical companies and the intellectual property hawks allied with them have stalled the ability of wealthy countries to act in their own best interests by vaccinating and treating the most vulnerable to ward off mutations that could lead to new, more deadly variants.
Amid the arguments against sharing essential technologies to fight the pandemic and save lives, lobbyists for major creative industries offer a flimsy assertion that avoiding devastating new virus variants would damage creators’ intellectual property rights. Over 275 artists & celebrities have now signed on to clearly and firmly reject this assertion.
Signatories include actors Debra Messing, Stephen Fry, Alyssa Milano, Mark Ruffalo, and Arjun Gupta; directors Lilly Wachowski and David Wain; Authors Neil Gaiman and Courtney Milan, as well as musicians Amanda Palmer and Zoe Keating. The letter is still accepting signatures at NoCovidInOurName.com
“Sharing life saving technology will not harm musicians, actors, writers, or other creative professionals. In fact, it will save many of us who live in countries throughout the world, while also allowing us to once again travel, perform, and share our creative work with the world. It is absurd that some of the associations that claim to represent creators’ interests are instead fighting for big pharma,” the letter reads.
“Lives are at stake,” said author Neil Gaiman, a Newbery and Carnegie Medal recipient. “There are no profits that make up for losing our loved ones.”
“A global pandemic that happens every 100 years is not a time for business as usual,” said Emmy-award winning actress Debra Messing. “The death toll, to date, is beyond catastrophic. We have a moral obligation to make saving lives the primary, the only, consideration.”
“Whether it is because you believe in sharing the fruits of science and prosperity with all the human family around the world, or whether it is because you are fearful that the virus’s continued proliferation daily increases its opportunity to mutate into more and more efficient variants, it is surely clear that now is the time for our vaccines and bio-technology to be made available to all nations,” said actor Stephen Fry, known for his many roles in celebrated films such as Gosford Park and V for Vendetta.
New York Times bestselling author Courtney Milan addressed the intellectual property concerns directly: “All IP regimes depend on cooperation and buy-in from every stakeholder. IP rights are strengthened by recognition that we must view them in the light that is compatible with saving lives during crisis.”
“It’s extremely disturbing to see organizations that purport to represent the interests of creators acting in such stark opposition to the health, safety, and business interests of the entertainment and creative industries,” concluded Lia Holland, Campaigns and Communications Director at Fight for the Future, one of the organizations that helped organize the letter. “While pharmaceutical companies stand to profit from desperation-fueled pricing the longer the pandemic stretches, creators can only lose in a world where we can’t gather to enjoy and celebrate their art.”