The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Belize Intellectual Property Office (BELIPO) began a two-day meeting on Wednesday, at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza. High on the topic list was the issue of promoting and enforcing rights to intellectual property and copyright in countries such as Belize, in an era where at one click, thousands of songs and videos can be downloaded and the artist and producers behind them do not see a cent. And if you think that doesn’t happen, we share with you the personal experience of poet, librarian and founder of the Belize Copyright Licensing Agency (BECLA), Felene Suazo.
Felene Suazo- Librarian and Founder
“Well, I’ll give you my personal example: I’m a poet and I self publish a collection of poetry and I was…I won’t even say where I was! But let’s just say that someone approached me and said, “Oh my goodness, I am so glad to meet you! I am a big fan and I have very few books”. So, here this person had gotten a copy of the book from a friend…an actual copy of the book and they photocopied all the pages of the book, and they came up to me and told me, “I photocopied the whole book once I got it ‘caz I wanted a copy”…and they did not see any problem in telling me that they photocopied the entire book”. So, I lost money in that sense because they got a free copy of the book…or not free, but they did not pay me for the copy of the book. They paid the photocopy shop that they got it from! But if she bought an actual copy of the book, so I did make a sale, but is legally wrong; and then she did not think that it was wrong to get a photocopy of the book…and the photocopy shop did not prevent her at that time, but now, I know that a lot of photocopy shops are aware and they are preventing people from that; but it continues”.
While that is an egregious example, there are many others, and the wider world is starting to take notice. Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington, who opened the conference, gives his views.
“Yes. As a matter of fact, it is becoming more and more important for us especially in the advance in the communication technology. The easy access to information via the computer, even by your telephone that run you a foul with the law when in fact you access information that is protected by copyright. When you do that, you can be subjected to both criminal as well as civil proceedings”.
But how does copyright work on the ground? Jamaica, which has no shortage of artistic talent, has been strongly enforcing copyright with the assistance of police. Lydia Rose is the general manager of the Jamaican Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers Limited.
“Interestingly, what we did in Jamaica is that we partnered with our police force the JCF, and where that before a music permit is issued for any party or any music event is to be kept, the police would ensure that the person come to JCAP to get a license. So, that’s one we have to be doing the enforcement. The other way is that we also have a licensing inspector who goes out and is able to say what the event is and is able to license. But the best thing to do, especially in Belize is to partner with the Police force, so that enforcement can be done”.
Belize is represented by chair of the board of the Belize Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Jason Guerrero, and NICH Artist and Creative Industry Officer Jackie Castillo.