By Desilon Daniels
“Enough is enough,” is what the Guyana Music Network (GMN) is maintaining with its launch of a petition for more airtime for local music and modern copyright laws the norm in Guyana.
The petition was recently launched by the body which currently represents over 500 artistes, ranging from musicians to designers. It is hoped that with its success, Guyanese musicians will be better represented and respected both nationally and internationally.
In an interview with Kaieteur News, GMN Board Member Kwesi ‘Malachi’ Gilbert emphasised the importance of the petition in allowing the voices of Guyana’s artistes to be heard.
He explained that the petition is a call to the people in radio stations to play more local content. He noted that this call was particularly directed towards the National Communications Network (NCN) which is mandated to promote all things Guyanese. The petition seeks to get 50 percent of Guyanese music played on private radio stations while 100 percent for NCN. He emphasised that NCN must be the leader in this new undertaking, since it is owned by the Guyanese people and should therefore represent them.
“We’re demanding that our people do more,” Gilbert said before adding, “We’re not forcing the private entities to follow this petition, but we’re respectfully calling for a change in the landscape.
“We saw the need over time to do something like this. Yes, people are saying that Guyana’s musicians are moving towards an international level so we need copyright to ensure that our people’s rights are promoted and protected.”
The petition also seeks to not only have modern copyright laws implemented, but to have these laws enforced.
According to Gilbert, there is a paragraph on copyright legislation covered in the Laws of Guyana. However, he said, there is an issue of enforcement.
“It’s all about enforcement and updating the laws that are currently there. We need to see the laws upgraded and enforced,” Gilbert stressed. “It’s about protecting our musicians’ music so that when they go abroad they can also be protected there,” he added.
He further said that Guyana is a nation that has a lot to offer in terms of its culture and cultural identity. However, he said, without proper mechanisms in place ‘Guyanese-ness’ will easily be stolen and become a form of profit for someone else. He said too that Guyana lacks an enabling environment, which also makes it difficult to enforce copyright legislation. He indicated that people, particularly businesspersons, are wary of getting on board for fear that with legislation, they will be forced to increase the cost of their products, while their income will decrease.
Gilbert stressed that this would not be the case and businesspersons would instead have to adapt their prices in a way that works for them, the musicians and the customers. He also opined that there was a need to change the mindset of the average Guyanese. He emphasised that there is need for greater appreciation of Guyanese music and talent.
He noted Jamaica’s multibillion dollar music industry and attributed this success to a better framework and enforced laws.
“We need to understand the importance of something like this. As Guyanese, we’d be contributing to the development of our people and country by supporting our artistes. If we support them they will stay right here in Guyana and contribute meaningfully to our economy,” Gilbert said.
He further stressed that the entire creative industry in Guyana and not only musicians must come out and call for enforced copyright legislation. “We all need to be represented; this isn’t just about music,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gilbert indicated that the response to the petition thus far has been favourable. He indicated that at least two radio stations have indicated their willingness to support it. However, both stations expressed concern over modern copyright laws.
Gilbert also said that the GMN has met with Minister of Tourism Cathy Hughes who indicated that the body’s concerns would be articulated to the Government of Guyana. The GMN is also looking to meet with Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo to share its views.
Gilbert also suggested a “cap off” which would see Guyanese music being aired months on end in the lead-up to Mashramani 2016. He indicated that this technique is employed in other Caribbean countries and has been working well in the promotion of local and regional music.
Rupert Roopnaraine, Minister of the Ministry of Education, which now has responsibility for Culture, Youth and Sport, recently indicated the necessity of modern Intellectual Property legislation.
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