When the government announced copyright legislation will come next year, the first critic was former president, Bharrat Jagdeo. His argument was essentially Third Worldist, presented within the context of unequal relations in the world economy. His presentation was far from flawed. In fact it was persuasive.
One of his poignant points which was not original, but has been the persistent adumbration of Third World academics since the sixties, including our own Clive Thomas and Walter Rodney and renowned Jamaican economist, Norman Girvan, is that international behaviour is embraced and discarded by big countries when it suits their interests.
This has been the working of the world system since the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) which established the sovereign nation-state. Anyone from the Third World who studies the world economy and cannot grasp the fundamental characteristic of big power domination needs to be re-educated. Just a passing note – CARICOM represents less than two percent of world trade.
In a column of November 4, 2018, in an example of how big powers treat international laws, I offered the example of the International War Tribunal. The US did not join the court, because its presidents and lawmakers see this law as not in the national interests of their country. This is just one tiny example where big powers will push for international laws to be observed by the world community when it is in their interests.
Small, poor states that hardly produce anything should not be concerned with the international copyright norms because they have nothing to lose.
The defenders of copyright legislation in Guyana continue to present their articulations without using the context of international political economy. So we have two more letters arguing for copyright law and the arguments are simply mind-boggling. I will offer one example from each, in which one is tempted to use the word “ignorance” in rebutting them.
The first example postulates that copyright law will protect Guyana’s creative talent. One could love their country, but at all times they must acknowledge the faults of their land. I am absolutely sure Americans will admit their county has a race problem. I am sure Russians know that their country does not have the kinds of democracy that most countries should have. I am sure Indians will acknowledge that poverty is a problem in the great nation of India.
Love for Guyana should not blind us to the fact that we are almost barren in the production of creative talent that has permeated the world. A comparison with our CARICOM neighbours makes for terrible reading. Barbados gave the world Rihanna. She is a world famous brand. The Bahamas gave us Sydney Poitier. Trinidad produced Naipaul. Trinidad produced the steel pan and Sparrow internationalized calypso. St. Lucia produced two Nobel Prize winners. Jamaica is leading the Caribbean – reggae, Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Harry Belafonte, Gayle, Bolt are world famous brands. Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad, the Bahamas clinched either gold or silver at the Olympics. Guyana has a single bronze.
Jamaica, Trinidad and the Bahamas produced a winner in the Miss World/Miss Universe competitions. Guyana has one case of number three. In cricket, we have no triple centurions; Jamaica has two, Barbados and Trinidad have one each. The leading test wicket-taker is a Jamaican. The leading centurion is a Trinidadian. The cricketer with the most runs is from Trinidad. The best cricketer in the world is from Barbados (Sobers). The consensus is that the West Indies two best batsmen are Viv Richards from Antigua and Brian Lara from Trinidad. I doubt anyone would identify WI’s best fast bowler or wicketkeeper as coming from Guyana. Shall I go on to compare creative talents within CARICOM? From Guyana, only Eddy Grant and El Dorado rum come to mind.
The other defender of copyright legislation, a lawyer, manifested an amazing ignorance of international relations that betrays a colonial mentality. Here is a quote; “The confused offerings on the impending Copyright laws are indications of ignorance regarding international norms and diplomacy particularly in respect of trade, and an acceptance of lawlessness as a norm in our society where rules that promote fairness are disregarded or not even considered, so that those who do not create anything live on the backs of those who do. These are not conditions under which international companies would be interested in investing in Guyana….”
This is coming from a Guyanese that lives in a region that represents less than two percent of world trade and whose countries have no influence on international affairs. And who says foreign companies will not come if Guyana does not have copyright laws. In 2018, this person doesn’t know that foreign companies will come for what they want, even if the Third World country doesn’t have any laws at all.
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