Gov't extends copyright protection
Nadine Sutherland sat expectantly in the gallery as legislators examined a bill brought by Industry Minister Anthony Hylton to amend the Copyrights Act. The bill, when signed into law, will see copyright protection being extended from 50 years to 95 years.
Members of the House of Representatives recently concluded the debate on the bill which has been in gestation for more than a decade. When Clerk to the Houses of Parliament Heather Cooke announced that the bill has been passed with two amendments, Sutherland, grinning from ear to ear, gave the two thumbs up to Hylton. He flashed back a smile as if to say, mission accomplished.
"This is some recognition and respect for the creators of music," the musician told The Sunday Gleaner.
If the bill is passed in the Senate, the copyright period would move from 50 to 95 years, allowing producers of works and owners of copyrights to collect royalty for their use for another 45 years.
"We are convinced at Jamaica Intellectual Property Office and in the ministry that the Americans are not going to make Mickey Mouse fall into the public domain," Hylton said, as he pushed back at suggestions for the extension to be about 70 years.
Protect creative works
The minister said that the aim of the bill is to protect creative works and to "encourage creators and to make them understand that they are doing this not only for themselves but for their families and generations to come".
By extending the copyright periods, works that were supposed to go into the public domain will remain with the owners of the intellectual property rights for 95 years after it was released.
"There are works that were done by Jamaicans in the 1960s that are up for public domain right now, and this extension will give some of them an opportunity for it to stay here, because there are some impressive songs that need to stay here. You are looking at the next 50 years, the whole Jamaican connection could just be totally erased. We need that extension to see what we can do to save our own creativity."
Asked if it is a bad thing for works to go to the public domain, Sutherland said, "I have a problem with it because I don't want somebody else to take what we have produced."
Olivia Grange, the opposition spokesperson on culture, suggested that the Government carefully considers whether the extension should not be up to 70 years instead of 95 years, as proposed in the bill.
Could cost Ja
"The idea of extending the term of copyright is one that has been advocated for several years," Grange said, even as she warned that the country could end up paying out foreign exchange to overseas owners of copyrights.
"Several countries have moved or are moving to increase the period of copyright protection from 50 years to 70 years. The trend is towards increasing the duration of protection for harmonisation, and to give creators the same level of protection as their counterparts in other countries," she said.
Grange said that in Canada, the period of copyright extension remains at life plus 50 years because, like Jamaica, they are a net importer and user of foreign works and would also suffer a large net outflow of earnings to foreign creators.
"I need to point out that both extensions are from 50 years, and the extension to 95 years relates only to protection in Jamaica's jurisdiction but not in overseas jurisdiction to which we will have to pay substantial amounts of foreign exchange, because we are net importers of foreign entertainment products," Grange argued.