Lawyers aim at pirates - UWI seminars strengthen anti-piracy thrust
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Late last month resident magistrates (RMs) from across the island gathered in the Faculty of Law building, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, in preparation to pass judgement on pirates.
Pirates of legitimate goods, that is.
Natalie Corthesy, lecturer in law at UWI, Mona, told The Sunday Gleaner that it was the second of three seminars hosted by the faculty, designed to strengthen the legal framework to combat piracy. The first, held in April, included police and customs officers, as well as personnel from the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). An April 2012 seminar to train clerks of the court will complete the tri-level approach.
Public service announcements
On the public education side, the Jamaica Anti-Piracy Alliance (JAPA) has also developed public service announcements covering music, film, book publishing and software. Some of the counterfeit items have been on display at the UWI seminars, from Duracell batteries to Smirnoff Vodka and MVP T-shirts.
"It is the hope that the sensitisation will have the effect of heightening enforcement efforts in all the different areas we
are highlighting so far and their efforts will be more effective, having been exposed to global and local instances of piracy and the effects of piracy and counterfeiting," Corthesy said.
With bootleg CDs and DVDs easily available and displayed for sale as a matter of course in major cities and towns across the island, with the police making major crackdowns on the practice from time to time, intellectual property theft is nothing new to Jamaicans. However, Corthesy notes the difference between piracy and counterfeiting.
So piracy, in the strictest sense, relates to illegal replication of copyright material. On the other hand, counterfeiting refers to trademark goods and the fact that people try to unlawfully use registered trademarks, putting them on goods that have no relationship with the trademark owners, in order to sell those goods.
"Counterfeiting may evolve to include counterfeit of patent goods," Corthesy said. She points out that "we have seen in Africa where countries have bought pills - antiretrovirals for AIDS and pills for malaria - and people have got sick and died because they were counterfeit".
Then there is bootlegging, where there is a public performance of some copyright material and an unauthorised person videotapes it. The video is then referred to as a bootleg.
The legal process, however, is where the buck stops and the significance of the resident magistrates' training in September was underscored by the support of Senior Puisne Judge Gloria Smith and Chief Justice Zaila McCalla.
Corthesy said the feedback from the RMs was that while they appreciated the training, it was key that the police and clerks of the court, who would be responsible for preparing the case, were especially important in the process.
Corthesy reinforced the impact of intellectual property theft, saying "on the cultural level it has an impact on creativity and the ability of the creative industry to recreate itself". However, there is a potential connection to an ominous situation.
Corthesy said if the country is weak on intellectual property issues, "it makes Jamaica attractive to those involved in organised crime to set up shop here".
And she points out that January 2014 Jamaica will be required, under a European Partnership Agreement, to have an increased level of enforcement measures, including on the export side.
There has been public mass destruction of illegal CDs in June 2004 and April 2011, but Corthesy points out that education on intellectual property-theft issues goes deeper than that.
"It is a sensitisation to things happening maybe on a small scale in other countries, but in Jamaica it may be big," Corthesy said.