It is no secret that Guyanese writers for example, often cringe at the thought of producing and distributing their work in the local market in absence of up-to-date Copyright laws.
However, officials from the University of Guyana and the Department of Culture within the Ministry of Education strongly advocate that authors and artists alike need not be consumed by fear as there are mechanisms in place which provide protection.
Copyright laws provide protection to authors of literacy and artistic works, (books and other writings) musical compositions paintings, sculpture, computer programmes and films, etc. The security is offered up to 50 years following the passing of the author.
Officials say that while efforts are being taken to reform the laws, it is believed that the current legislation provides some amount of coverage for artists.
They even urged that artistes, who find that their work has been reproduced without permission, hesitate for a single second to file legal action.
On the other hand, one cannot escape as well, the fact that there is a plethora of intellectual piracy taking place. This is as a result of the lack of enforcement of those laws and also the failure of aggrieved artists to exercise the power of the legislation.
Even as some continue to press for the enactment of the Draft Copyright Bill 1999, the continuous developments of the technological age continue to pose challenges in the face of reform measures.
The technological advancements have made possible the ability to have literary works published and sold online. As a result, the internet has become an avenue for rampant Copyright infringement.
However, educators and legal minds have joined the conversation on how to integrate the required protection against this into the Copyright laws, so as to provide artists of the 21st Century with modern ways of defense.
While the amendment of the Copyright legislation is still in the making, officers from the Ministry of Legal Affairs and the Department of Culture have confirmed that there is still a fair amount of security being offered to the works of Guyana’s artists as the country is a signatory to the Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention.
They stress that because of that membership, some degree of relevant protection can also be provided, even as legislators continue to debate legal changes in light of technological advancements.
According to the International Bureau of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Berne Convention provides for protection of authors who are nationals or residents of a country which is a member of the “Berne Union”.
Authors who are not nationals or residents of such a country are protected if they first publish their works in a member country, or simultaneously publish in a non-member and a member country.
The WIPO posits that a major practical advantage to a country in adhering to the Berne Convention is that works of its authors are automatically protected in all countries party to the Convention, with the result that these authors may derive financial benefits from the expansion of markets for their works.
It said too that “the competitive position of national authors in the domestic market may be improved, because, once the country is a member of the Berne Convention, the works of foreign authors can only be distributed with their permission, and no longer at prices set lower than domestic works, for which authorization would be required for distribution.”
The WIPO asserts that there are also advantages of a macroeconomic nature.
The international body said that regardless of its level of social or economic development, by joining the Berne Convention a country becomes part of the international system for protection of authors’ rights, and by extension, the international trading system for goods and services protected by copyright.