Get up, stand up!

So caught up are we in the throes of the ‘silly season’ that World Intellectual Property Day came and went on Sunday last without so much as a blip on our collective consciousness – at least for the most part.

20140215boxWorld IP Day, as it is called, is observed on April 26 each year and every year it has a different theme. It also seeks to bring attention to a different area of intellectual property each year with the aim being to encourage creativity and promote respect for it.

This year, music was the focus and the theme was ‘Get Up, Stand Up. For Music.’ The World Intellectual Property Organisation confirmed in the information it released on the theme that it referenced Bob Marley’s “enduring international anthem for human rights.”

“Get up, stand up//Stand up for your rights//Get up, stand up//Don’t give up the fight…,” Bob Marley sang with his band the Wailers. The song was on the album ‘Burnin’, which dropped back in 1973 – 42 years ago. Like most of Bob Marley’s music, it is still relevant today as the struggle for human rights continues. It is fitting that it was chosen to bring attention to the fight against the theft of intellectual property.

The flagrant disregard for intellectual property in Guyana is well known, though this is not the only country where such contempt exists, nor is Guyana the worst country in the world when it comes to stealing others’ creative expressions. Of course that does not make it any less reprehensible and is not an excuse for us to continue along that path.

Just last week, The Scene’s food columnist Cynthia Nelson of “Tastes Like Home,” wrote about how she feels when she sees her food photographs emblazoned on some billboard, building or in an advertisement, without so much as a by-your-leave. Cynthia spelled out in detail the hours she would put in before she even got out her camera. She did not go into detail about the sums of money she would expend purchasing the ingredients to make the dish before labouring over the recipe, often with trial and error and then taking umpteen shots and finally deciding on the perfect one.

In a fair world she would be paid every time someone used one of her photos. But the least persons can do is ask for permission to use them and credit the creator. Surely that’s not too much to ask?

Similarly, persons who produce music—write lyrics, bang out a melody, perform and record it—spend time and money to polish that perfect sound which brings us so much pleasure. How can we refuse to pay them, or writers, artists, filmmakers, or designers for what they would have worked hard to create? If we did, if we all did, how would creative people make a living from their craft?

We are fortunate today to be living in a technological age where we have unprecedented access to music, films, photographs and reading material. We should be grateful that a lot of it is free – the owners of the copyright in some cases have chosen to do this. But where it isn’t we should refrain from simply taking it just because we can.

We should pay special attention to local creators. We know just how difficult it is to be recognised, in Guyana let alone be paid and fairly for their contributions. It would not be an exaggeration to say that nearly every single creative person in Guyana (maybe we should cross out the nearly) has complained about the use of their work without their permission and their frustration at being denied recompense.

We need to recognise that if we had no creative people or if they refused to share their creations, what a deleterious effect it would have on our culture. Our singers, songwriters, musicians, publishers, producers, arrangers, engineers, writers, poets, playwrights, filmmakers, artists, designers—our creative people—deserve to derive economic value from what they produce. They deserve a fair deal. Let us “get up” and “stand up” with them for their rights and the rights of creative people the world over.

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