All legitimate efforts must be made to safeguard and advance intellectual production
The government’s argument that its decision to source pirated textbooks is driven by economics – conscious that it is violating time-honoured principles, laws and rules of engagement among its CARICOM partners – is to concede a behaviour that is not dissimilar to the pirates who prey on our fishermen.
The cabinet has within its midst attorneys-at-law in the Minister of Legal Affairs and Minister of Education, and it is reasonable to expect that they would have guided their colleagues on the importance of the law. The fact that this evaded cabinet’s decision-making is indicative of the pervasive executive lawlessness engulfing this nation.
One of the major thrusts of CARICOM is harnessing the region’s cultural resources to benefit the people within the framework of respecting property rights. Thus the blatant act by the Government in seeking to contract an agency to duplicate textbooks produced in a sister state is wrong. Even more disturbing is that the Trinidad and Tobago-based Royards Publishing Company bid for its own work and is among the lowest bidders, which sheds another bad spotlight on this nation.
Notwithstanding our archaic copyright law – which is no excuse for lawlessness – with Guyana’s ascension on October 25, 1994 to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and January 1, 1995 to the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), it is expected to comply with the principles outlined therein. Further, efforts must be made by our lawmakers to update our Copyright Act.
However poor a nation, its government does not have to violate conventions/agreements/laws to meet the people’s needs. It can still provide goods and services to the people through ethical trade practices and, in this instance, engage in negotiation with the publishers to ensure intellectual property rights (IPR) are upheld. To this end, brand/product/service can be provided to meet the affordability of society’s various economic strata.
Citizens are reminded when Jamaica chose to import rice from the USA instead of Guyana, this country took the case to CARICOM and invoked the CSME’s rules, primarily to get Jamaica to purchase from us. This decision was taken in full awareness that had Jamaica taken its business out of the region, when said item could be purchased in the region, it would have been a violation of the rules and moreso, impacted negatively on the economic wellbeing of the industry, those earning a living from it (directly and indirectly), and the GDP. Similar respect must be returned to Trinidad and other sister states.
Additionally, the implication for the government’s lawlessness cannot be overlooked, since it threatens the livelihood of those in the art and literary industries at home, and may make it difficult for said workers to effectively prosecute any violation of their rights, because our Government is culpable of violating the IPR of others within the CARICOM family. It is a government’s responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens and respect those it does business with. To do otherwise is to deny workers the right to earn.
As a member of the regional/international family, Guyana’s image and relations with others is hurt, even moreso when the Government leads the way in flouting international standards and robbing workers the just reward for their labour. For the government to be consciously aware that its action is wrong, but deliberately sets out to implement the wrong, sends an ominous signal to CARICOM, and wider afield, that the country is not prepared to respect conventions, agreements and laws, and this can open the gate for retaliation.
The administration ought to be reminded that apart from creating jobs and receiving revenue from traditional products, the region had made significant inroads in intellectual production and all legitimate efforts must be made to safeguard and advance it.
General Secretary, Guyana Trades Union Congress