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Letter of the Day: Copyright extension will threaten local industries

Published:Thursday | July 16, 2015 | 12:00 AM


News is that the Government of Jamaica is planning to extend the term of copyright from the current status of life plus 50 years after the death of the author, to life plus 95 years.

If one understands how copyright operates, more is not necessarily better.

The Jamaican public has to pay for access and use of copyright works. For example, radio, and television stations and restaurants pay a licence to play copyright music, and educational institutions pay a licence to copy excerpts of books. The longer the protection, the longer the period of payment.

Jamaica uses more foreign works than local. That means more foreign exchange leaves the island, than stays, and benefits more overseas creators, than local ones.

Most countries around the world protect copyright for life plus 50 years. With 95 years, Jamaica becomes exceptional. But is more really better for us?

In other countries that debated term extension - the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada - their economists and academics weighed in to say that there was no clear proof of added benefit from extending the duration - not to current or future creators, not to the economy, not to the copyright system itself. In fact, there were losses, not gains.


Has the Government of Jamaica engaged the nation in a similar debate? What did our economists and academics say? Where are the reports, studies and analyses of the impact on our economy and copyright system?

The main lobbyists for change in Jamaica are purportedly the vintage reggae record producers from the 1950s and '60s. No one will doubt the great contribution that this era of music made to building the overall Jamaican music brand. But the impact of term extension goes way beyond vintage music. Copyright involves so much more. Who will really gain or lose the most?

The Government of Jamaica must be sure that this change to the law does not cost the Jamaican creative community more than they purport to save.



Kingston 6