‘No Artists Copyrighted Their Works In 2015’

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Local artists have for many years been hit with rampant counterfeiting from pirates. But the Liberia Copyright Office said they have come around with a lasting solution to that problem.

Last Wednesday, at a one-day seminar with leaders and members of the collective societies, the Liberia Copyright Office announced that special actions will be taken beginning January 1 to finally implement the National Anti-Piracy Law using a hologram stamp that protects and distinguishes the authentic work of the artist from pirated ones.

The acting officer-in-charge of the Copyright Office, Clifford B. Robinson, said piracy has been one of the major issues that violated the rights of Liberian creatives.

He said although the real victims of pirate activities are musicians and film makers, since the beginning of 2015 not a single artist has come to the copyright office to register his or her work.

“Artists need to come out to protect their work since it is for their own benefit. Without such cooperation, success might be difficult to achieve. What we are about to do next year is for their own good.

“While others are on the street corners, world trade center is doing the same at the detriment of the creators or rights owners, and even choreographers. We cannot win the war against the pirates without cooperation from the artists,” Mr Robinson said.

According to Robinson, the rights of artists will not continue to be violated when the hologram security stamp to curb piracy is introduced in Liberia.

“The introduction of the hologram security stamp in the commerce of Liberia is the solution to stop this act by pirates, which is not only depriving artistic creators, but killing them softly and weakening the industries,” he added.

The copyright boss said the introduction of the stamp is one of several undertakings that will enhance the protection of literary and artistic works in Liberia.

The seminar was well attended as participants expressed serious disappointments and called on the rights authorities to help protect their properties, saying it is causing havoc for them.

Apart from discussions on the national anti-piracy stamp, the Marrakesh Treaty, signed by Beyan Kota on the protection and promotion of the blind and visually impaired persons – the Swakopmum – which has to do with traditional knowledge, was also highlighted.

According to the copyright boss, work is being done in concert with the LRA for the reintroduction of the Blank Tape Level (taxes) to be placed on the IPD of the Ministry of Commerce in order to help reboot GOL’s income generation and creation of royalties for the artists and copyright owners.

Better late, or never?
This late move by the copyright office is welcome since, for years, artists have been complaining that the copyright office is doing nothing to fight piracy. But one of the major factors that will hamper their new fight is the lack of a coordinated and consolidated effort among the copyright office, the artists’ unions and the artists themselves.

How will the law be implemented if introduced? Most certainly a large raid on pirated works in the market should be on the offing to pave the way for the works of artists displaying the hologram stamp, including identifying the biggest pirates. It won’t be an easy task as the black market is expansive and the line ministries, including Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Commerce, as well as the Liberian Revenue Authority, all need to avoid bureaucracy to make it happen.

Again it is also worrisome news that no single artist was able to register his/her work with the authority, making the copyright office to appear either not working or not needed in the fight against the black marketers. This is creating more room for infringements.

If artists want to benefit from their works, they need to realize that without unity and a combined effort, the new plan will not be effective and will definitely send the wrong message from Liberia in protecting intellectual property rights.

On the intellectual property front, Liberia has a good intellectual property law, but the future of anyone who wants to invest in the creative industry will depend on the outcome of how effective the hologram stamp is and what becomes of against pirates, as well as unions and artists who do not want to comply.

But the biggest questions that remain unanswered are: Will the copyright office postpone the date to introduce the stamp? How long will this policy last? How does the copyright office intend to muster the effort needed to fight piracy?

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