Aug 08, 2010 News
“Counterfeiters have become more sophisticated”
Education Minister Shaik Baksh has promised to commence an investigation into reports that copyright infringement has been impacting the operation of local legitimate bookstores. And according to reports reaching this newspaper, illegal reproduction of publications, particularly school texts, have reached new heights with the recent allocation of contracts to certain local businesses. “I am not aware of any such activities,” said Minister Baksh during an invited comment solicited by this newspaper. “I will have to investigate this…I do know that we were in receipt of books from a Caribbean Distributor but I will certainly have to find out about this allegation,” the Minister added.
According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary “copyright is the exclusive right given to the originator or his or her assignee for a fixed number of years, to reproduce or perform a literary, musical, cinematic etc., work and to authorise others to do the same.
But according to Book Seller Lloyd Austin, who has for more than a decade owned and operated the Austin Book Services, the situation of copyright infringement is very much a reality and has been serving to deprive the creators of their due desert. It is Austin’s unreserved conviction that book sellers are being given unfair competition from an illegal source. “It is no different from stealing from somebody’s purse…I never thought that I’d live to see this day; this rampant criminal act.”
According to the renowned bookseller, he was in receipt of some information recently from reliable sources that the Ministry of Education has opted to give out contracts to local printers to print textbooks for the September term. The Ministry in the past, he said, would contact the various publishers, including Nelson, Oxford among others, but has neglected this approach this year. “This is the newest development that the Ministry of Education itself has joined in the infringing by awarding these contracts. This thing is not new but it has now evolved.”
While it is not clear whether Austin’s Book Store has been the primary source of original publications, Austin has revealed that known businesses have been acquiring publications and reproducing them for sales at a reduced price. In some instances, the reproduced pieces are sold for half of the original price. “They are getting these books from somewhere. I know people who have bought one book here…There was a new book we had and somebody told me that that person was connected to a business place (name withheld). They come in and buy one of these new books as long as they find them to be in demand.”
“They are just targeting textbooks because the numbers involved will bring in greater returns. They are not looking at novels and magazines. Every single textbook of note is being infringed in this country.”
Since the introduction of this unethical practice in the society, it was no difficult task to identify publications that are reprinted locally, as according to Austin, the ones that are reproduced locally are loose sheets with wire staples while the ones that are from the publisher are perfectly bounded.
However, with the evolution of infringement, Austin revealed that persons are now able to reproduce text with little difference as they are now being printed in colour and are identical for the most part with little noticeable exceptions. “The layman can hardly distinguish the original from the counterfeit now because they have become so enriched by their activities that they have invested in colour printers and so on…The computer generates the text and they have it on a disk and they can run off just like a metropolitan publisher.”
According to Austin, the act of infringement has become so sophisticated that unless textbooks are carefully examined one may not be able to detect the difference as persons have even sought to affix barcodes to them as well. However, the more detectable reprinted materials are those that are printed in a two-tone colour tone contrary to their original form which is full colour. “This thing is big…It is a massive operation; a massive illegal enterprise. It has been going on since 2001.”
In the past, legitimate booksellers were few and are still very few according to Austin as there are persons who continue to counterfeit “every single text of note on the market.”
Having detected the problem in 2001, Austin revealed that the Publishers Association in England had written the Ministry about the piracy problem. In fact, he revealed that several British High Commissioners had written to the relevant authorities hence the matter had gained the attention of the Chief Legal Officer of the land, the Attorney General; the Ministry of Trade and even the President. And it was the recommendation of the Legal Officer of that time that the matter be taken to the court, which was and remains of no significant consequence even today, Austin said. “The penalty back then and even now is $60…This is the penalty for infringing copyright in Guyana in 2010.”
According to Austin, the mere fact that the Government is getting involved in the act by purportedly awarding contracts is a clear indication that there is no intent to change the existing laws governing copyright.
However, Minister Baksh insists that he is not aware that such a practice persists.
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