Nov 24, 2020 Editorial
Kaieteur News – In a recent interview with the state media, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall put forward his reasoning on why Guyana should be cautious with its progress on updating our archaic copyright legislation. Says Nandlall, according to the article:
“A society must be careful in the type of laws that it promulgates. It cannot, it should not, promulgate laws that will impose hardships on the majority of its citizens. It should not promote laws which do not meet the aspirations and the way of life of a majority of its citizens. A DVD for example will have to be sold for approximately $20 USD which is above the [daily] minimum wage in Guyana.”
This excuse is not a new one. It was the same poor logic that was employed when the then Ramotar administration – under which Nandlall also served as Attorney-General – sought to excuse the 2012 open government piracy of textbooks printed by foreign publishers as somehow being the public good. Back then, the DVD excuse was also given, drawing upon the time of the popular phenomenon of the sale of pirated DVDs being sold at dirt cheap prices all around Guyana.
It was a bad excuse in 2012, the PPP/C government’s refusal to update our copyright laws which are now 64 years old, having being passed in 1956 when Guyana was still ten years away from political independence and still firmly under British Colonial rule. It is a piss poor excuse now that Guyana is scheduled to experience rapid economic growth under an oil and gas economy.
Successive governments continue to prevaricate and kick the can down the road when it comes to the very basic issue of updating our copyright legislation, something our sister nations in the Caribbean have done and continue to reap rewards from. When the David Granger APNU+AFC campaigned, one of the key promises it made was to update the legislation, rightfully scouring the PPP for not doing so.
Granger himself reiterated that commitment in January 2016, during an event at the Deeds Registry, a promise that he and his Ministers would recommit to year after year without doing any actual work whatsoever towards that goal.
According to a glowing December 2017 article in state-owned Guyana Chronicle, for example, we learn of plans to supposedly update the legislation, deferred once again, in 2018:
“During the budget debate on Thursday evening, Minister of Legal Affairs, Attorney General, Basil Williams, told the House that several pieces of legislation will be tabled in the National Assembly next year. Among those pieces of legislation is a Copyright Bill.”
Last June, during the airing of the television programme, ‘The Public Interest,’ President David Granger had given his word that the government was committed to introducing such legislation. ‘I cannot say for sure when that legislation will be laid,’ he said, ‘but it is a commitment on our part to protect the rights of artistes and publishers of other forms of material. We are committed to suppressing piracy.’
On Thursday night, besides the Copyright Bill, the Attorney-General listed several others to be taken to Parliament by the government, among them the Public Debt Management Bill, Electronic Communication and Transaction Bill, Juvenile Justice Bill, the Gaming Bill and the National Accreditation Council Amendment Bill.
This of course did not happen with the administration leaving office while completely abandoning even its pretext of an interest in reforming our Copyright legislation. Now, a new-old government is in place with its new-old rhetoric of why we should but why we shouldn’t put in place this basic tenet of a modern society. The time for rhetoric, the time for prevarication, the time for backwardness on intellectual property rights legislation as a whole is over. Government cannot continue to get it wrong on copyright.
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