The Liberian art scene has expended greatly in the last few years – from more exhibitions to Liberian artists gaining international recognition and prominence for their work.
However, despite this success story, it seems that Liberian artists are nowadays deliberately refusing to copyright their works, according to a damaging report from the Liberia Intellectual Property (LIP) Office (formerly Liberia Copyright Office and the Liberia Industrial Property Office).
The report said from the over hundred creative Liberians only three were able to copyright their works – meaning all of this year’s literary works, from paintings to architecture, sculptures and engravings, among others, are not registered.
Frustratingly, this is the third year in a row that the LIP had not been able to record copyrights for more than five works of art.
Worst of all, authors, painters, architects, sculptors, engravers, lithographers, just to name a few, are the biggest delinquents, as they have not copyrighted their works for years.
This definitely means that a vast majority of artistic works on the market has been greatly exposed to piracy or copyright infringements, knowingly or unknowingly by the artists themselves.
By virtue of fact, when a work is copyrighted by law, it gives the creator the power to make long term profit – like royalties – the sole and exclusive right for reproduction, as well as controlling the public display of his/her work.
Yes, it is true that copyright is automatic by international conventions, but local law demands that a work be registered in order for the creator to have the legal right or jurisdiction over said work. And without registration, the artist will find it very difficult to win any case emanating from piracy or copyright infringement.
Also, artists who refuse or fail to copyright their work are missing out on opportunities such as upfront payment of royalties from marketers or distributors for such works, as well as not having the protection of the hologram security stamp, which makes said work extremely difficult to duplicate.
The holographic stamp protects and distinguishes the authentic work of an artist from pirated ones, therefore helping artists to benefit more from their work.
However, artists cannot be totally blamed for the drastic decline in copyright registration because the LIP office has over the years failed to enforce and protect the rights of artists.
Secondly, the lack of protection from the copyright office for those who have copyrighted their work years back proves that the copyright office is not active; and this undermines the work of the entity.
No matter their grievances, artists need to understand that their creativity is their asset, and once it is protected, they have the power to enjoy all the benefits that come with it.
Remembering the words of veteran musician Abraham Kallon, “Copyrighting gives creators the legal rights to pursue anyone who infringes on their work, either by making them pay for any monetary loss incurred or taking them to court. I think it is advisable that every
Liberian creator copyrights his or her work. No matter the problem, they need to remember that their creation is their asset.”
Note: The hologram stamp and royalty payment artists receive upfront were introduced late this year. The Liberian artists referred to in this regard are those based in Liberia.