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Protecting poetry, music and all - The amendments to the Copyright Act: a critical component of the creative economy

Published:Friday | August 21, 2015 | 12:00 AMAnthony Hylton
Trevor Rhone
Louise 'Miss Lou' Bennett Coverley.
Bob Marley
Oliver Samuels

The rich legacy of Miss Lou's poetry and folklore, Bob Marley's music, Oliver Samuels' comedy and Trevor Rhone's literary genius serve as strong reminders that Jamaicans have consistently set themselves apart as exceptional producers of creative content. The international demand and the opportunities for the monetisation of this content, which expresses our culture, form the basis of the creative economy.

The creative economy refers to the use of activities centred on the expressions of human talent that lend themselves to commercialisation efforts, inclusive of film, music, fashion, animation and design. It relies on the ability of creative persons to leverage their talents and ideas for employment and wealth creation. To achieve these outcomes, a secure intellectual property regime capable of generating income for rights

holders, bolstered by the relevant policy and legislative frameworks is critical.

The recent amendments to the copyright legislation are, therefore, the mainstay of this modernised creative economy. It is a critical step in protecting our current rights holders and motivating those that may not see the value in maintaining control over their creative rights.


more protection


The amendments to the Copyright Act provide Jamaican creators and innovators with a strengthened intellectual property regime to maximise their creative efforts. These measures include the extension of the copyright protection term from 50 to 95 years. The retroactive provisions extend the protection of works which expired in 2012. This is to protect creative works that were created immediately after independence that would fall into the public domain, so providing the owners of such creative works - and their families - with adequate opportunity to continue earning incomes.

In the past, many of Jamaica's most valuable copyright works were transferred to persons and entities in foreign jurisdictions, to the detriment of the local creative economy. With this amended legislation, we have created the framework for rights holders to realise the value in maintaining their intellectual property rights over their content.

This effort is supported by the operation of a Copyright Registry at the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), allowing rights holders to voluntarily register their works as a form of record-keeping with the facility to retrieve copies of their work, when required. This will assist in the settlement of ownership claims and, by extension, engender confidence in the protection of the creative industries.

Today, the amendments to the Copyright Act have ensured our compliance with the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Phonograms and Performances Treaty (together called the 'WIPO Internet Treaties') which entered into force in 2002. The legislation has also incorporated provisions from the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and the Print Disabled, which Jamaica signed in 2013.


stronger linkages


The amendments to the Copyright Act also presents the opportunity to strengthen linkages across Government, the private sector and academia to contribute to economic development in the following ways:

• It is an added incentive to any creator of copyrighted works, as content created and

registered in Jamaica will enjoy one of the longest terms of protection in the world;

• Jamaica can continue building loyalty to its own creative culture and output rather than to foreign creative works; and

• It supports the Security Interests in Personal Property Act (SIPPA) which recognises intellectual property rights as an asset and an acceptable form of collateral when seeking financing. The attendant benefits of the SIPPA are still being realised through continued consultation with the financial sector and, at its optimum, will be critical for enterprising Jamaicans to access financing and thereby gain wealth from their intellectual property assets locally and internationally.

The incentives for strengthening the creative industries, as well as the numerous benefits, that will be derived from the extension of copyright protection were a critical consideration in the extension of the term of copyright protection. However, the Government recognises the interests of educational archivists and librarians and, in fact, we remain strident in our support of efforts within the World Intellectual Property Organisation to exempt the use of protected materials in educational institutions.

The matter of intellectual property and its management is central to the development of Jamaica's creative economy. It is a pivotal element of the extensive collaborative work being done across ministries, agencies and departments of Government to provide an enabling environment in which entrepreneurial creative industries can thrive and become a central element of the nation's growth agenda.

- Anthony Hylton is the minister of industry, investment and commerce.