By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
Next year may be the dawn of a new era for those who struggled to secure a decent living in the local creative industry. Attorney General, Basil Williams recently indicated that the Government will be passing copyright legislation in 2018.
The use of the word ‘struggle,’ in describing the wait and advocacy made by those most affected by the absence of copyright legislation, is by no mean an exaggeration. Therefore, the move to “finally” bring legislation for copyright is being welcomed by many in the creative industry as they yearn for an environment that is conducive to their trade.
“Imagine going into a book-store and seeing the novel that you had worked on for years, has been photocopied and is being sold or going to a music store and seeing several pirated CDs of your songs. And imagine that you cannot seek financial redress because you are living in a country in which no copyright law exists,” said writer Michael Jordan who recently published his first book.
The writer noted that that has been the reality for too long in Guyana; a country with no publishing house; one where a writer often has to self-publish and hope that the book sells so as to recoup a profit.
Jordan, the writer of Kamarang, said, “What I am hearing is long overdue, but welcomed. At last, someone seems to be listening to the pleas of the Guyanese artists, writers, singers and other creative people. Someone is finally beginning to take us seriously.”
Another writer, Barrington Braithwaite is also relieved that the he may finally be able to upgrade his modest living.
He told Kaieteur News yesterday, “We have been lobbying for copy right implementation for the longest while.” Braithwaite said that the bill should benefit from the contributions of some who have been lobbying over the years and those who are au fait with copyright legislation across the world. He noted the fact that precious government had legitimised piracy both in the collection of tax from the sale of illegitimate creative products and through other mechanisms that the PPP government has put in place.
He said that a transition or cleansing period will be needed. He said that there will be a need for mechanisms to be worked out for the payment of royalties.
Further, Braithwaite said that there will be a need to sensitise persons about the concept of copyright as many are not even aware of the concept.
People are not aware when they are stepping over the copy right line.
Braithwaite has self published 12 books. He has had two plays staged including Shadow of the Jaguar staged in 1992 where Norman Beaton came home from London to act. He’s the creator of the Caribbean’s first comic-book, Super-hero.
Yet, he has had to hold on to a day job to “keep the pot boiling.”
Award winning writer, Ruel Johnson, who has written three books, said that Guyana is now on the right track.
Johnson’s perspective was given not only from one who is participating in the literary arts but also as one who is working with government on the legislation.
He said that it is important to note is that the legislation itself is merely one step in building an environment in which copyright works.
He said that copyright works in two ways. It protects creative work from being copied in general but also provides that when somebody’s creative work is used, that they profit from it.
“So along with copyright legislation, particularly for the music industry, there needs to be infrastructure that measures and monitors the use of creative work and accumulate and distribute revenue to creative artists,” said Johnson.
Johnson said that in expectation of the legislation he contacted regional copyright organisations during Carifesta in August in order that Guyana can benefit from technical cooperation in creating the needed structures.
He said that it is important that creative people themselves get together and lobby for those systems and structures to be put in place.
Johnson noted that under the new broadcast legislation there is a provision that provides for 30 percent local content.
He said that once the Broadcast Amendment Bill and the Copyright Bill goes hand in hand, artistes can expect a much better payday.
The United States of America has long been urging Guyana to establish stringent copyright legislation, but Guyana slipped behind in its deadlines to make this a reality.US Ambassador, Perry Holloway, said that Ambassadors are legally required to inform congress about errant countries.
The coming act will replace the 1956 Copyright Act that Guyana inherited at the time of independence from Britain in 1966.
In 2015, the Guyana Music Network (GMN) decided to mobilise its community to petition government for new legislation.
Addressing that meeting was world renowned Guyanese singer, Eddy Grant, who issued a passionate call for the radio stations being operated by the state-owned National Communications Network (NCN) to play more local music to enable the artistes to earn royalties and promote their craft.
The People’s Progressive Party Civic administration had claimed that copyright legislation would have prevented poor Guyanese from accessing otherwise expensive textbooks.
The award of a multi-million dollar contract by the Ministry of Education to a local producer and supplier of bootlegged textbooks was only halted after the United Kingdom Publishers Association secured a High Court injunction.
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