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Address by Hon. Olivia Grange on International Reggae Day

Release Date: 
Tuesday, July 1, 2008 - 13:00

“So much things to say right now, so much things to say….”

Madam Chairman; Professor Laurent Manderieux (pronounce Man-deh-ree-you); Professor Vanus James, Consultant, lecturer in Economics at UTECH; Ms. Andrea Davis and other members of Jamaica Arts Holding; Members of Staff of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization; Representatives of the creative and financial sectors; Ladies and Gentlemen.

Allow me from the outset to salute Andrea Davis and her team for the courageous and determined stance they have upheld over the years in the promotion of Reggae Day. As we ourselves have done in recent times in the establishment of Reggae Month, the establishment of Reggae Day has been anchored in the recognition of the role played by our most outstanding cultural product in the definition of Brand identity.

In fact, this audacious act is reflective of the very nature of the Jamaican cultural identity of resilience, self promotion and courage in the face of conflict, negation or even disapproval. Congratulations, Andrea. So that today we celebrate International Reggae Day, copyrighted and trademarked for posterity and sustainable identification.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am also pleased to be here because of the nature of the activity that has been organized to celebrate this year’s staging of International Reggae Day: The International Reggae Day Copyright Forum.

Anyone who knows me will readily agree that the issue of Copyright and Related Rights is very dear to my heart. Of great significance in all this mix is the theme of today’s discussion, which seeks to address one of the fundamental issues with which so many of us have been grappling over the years: how to use our creativity and the intellectual property associated with that creativity to leverage the kinds of actions that would lend itself to wealth creation and enhanced income generation. I will say more about this later.

Ladies and gentlemen, I keep copyright issues dear to my heart because these rights constitute one of the principal foundations on which some of the most powerful elements of our people’s identity and integrity as well as financial success in the areas of culture and cultural industries are anchored.

You see, in many instances a people’s worth is measured by what they have created or simply by what they own. A people who have not created anything or who may not be linked to something spectacular will not be respected by the world. A country that celebrates the two fastest men in the world will be respected. A country with a product of international reputation and renown will likely be revered. It is a part of our advancement as a people, which allows the National Cultural Policy to see us as a potential “Cultural Superstate”.

In the words of Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey as cited in the National Cultural Policy in the Chapter on Cultural Industries:

“Lagging behind in the vane of civilization will not prove our higher abilities. Being subservient to the will and caprice of progressive people will not prove anything superior in us. Being satisfied to drink of the dregs of the cup of human progress will not demonstrate our fitness as a people… But when we strike out to build industries, governments, and ….empires, then and only then we will as a people prove to our Creator and to man in general that we are capable of shaping our own destiny.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Jamaica’s identity and image worldwide are both largely linked to our most vibrant creation: Reggae Music, and the wider culture which is the centrepiece of Brand Jamaica. We have created a great product for which we can be justly proud, willing to celebrate and ready to establish mechanisms for the greater benefit of all its exponents.

For this reason, my experience has shown me very clearly the need to establish regimes and strategies to protect what we create thereby eliminating questions of ownership or who should benefit from the use of what, how, when and where.

For this reason I am happy to have been asked to address this very important forum to promote another aspect of Intellectual Property and increase the level of the public’s awareness and understanding. Yes, these discussions are part of the necessary process of defining ourselves, which was the subject of my presentation in the Sectoral Debate recently. Our people need to understand more clearly the power of their creation and be able to amass and accrue wealth and prosperity from these creations. Today’s dialogue will allow us to zero-in on the kinds of possibilities of the road that lies ahead of us. This is why I welcome today’s deliberations.

At this point, then, it would be very remiss of me if I did not pause to acknowledge the work being done by JIPO in keeping the Jamaican community abreast of cutting-edge IP issues. It is very timely that this activity is being implemented so soon after the launch in March this year of the Copyright Study on the Contribution of Copyright and Related Rights Industries to the National Economy of Jamaica by Professor Vanus James with support from WIPO.

As such, I also must thank very sincerely the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for selecting Jamaica among the countries for which a Copyright study was commissioned. This reinforces my earlier sentiments as I am sure that it is the recognition of what we have created that was the basis on which WIPO made this very significant decision.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this study is already forming the basis of much discussion. The study provides empirical evidence to support the view that the Jamaican Copyright sector generates revenue, creates employment, and contributes positively to the balance of payments. No longer can there be claim that there are no statistics or that where they exist they are limited. We now have extensive analysis of the true economic value and impact of the Copyright-based sectors, thanks to the Vanus James study, and thanks to WIPO.

This study is therefore fundamental to what we need to advance even more substantially the argument for greater allocations in national budgets to cultural industries or for the creation of greater incentives for the enhancement of these industries or for a transformation in the approach to the sector by the financial sector. As such, it will point us to the way forward for the development of strategies and programmes for the advancement of the sector.

Ladies and gentlemen, creativity is at the very heart of what we do. It is universally acknowledged that creativity is synonymous with Jamaica as expressed and defined in our Music, wider Performing Arts, Fashion Design, Cuisine, and Dance Forms.

As a people, we have had to be very creative even in carrying out very menial tasks. At times, we have had to “tun wi han’ an mek fashion”, and in so doing have created new ways of doing, new goods and services that have all been crafted, developed and marketed.

Yet, in spite of this propensity for creativity, a challenge for us over the years has been that in many instances we were not able to appreciate the value of some of the things we created or discovered.

We washed our hair with the “opuntia” a.k.a “tuna”, or we ate and drank “aloe vera” a.k.a “sinkle bible” a.k.a “bitter aloes” to clean out the system, but never understood the concept of ownership and the consequent need for patenting, perhaps because we saw it as a part of our communal existence.

Additionally, we created language that very succinctly expresses our way of being or thinking but we thought very little of the power of these constructions, until some other people began to use it or even claim it. Words and expressions like “IRIE” and “DISS”” come to mind immediately.

But it has been in the area of cultural arts expression that our creativity has been demonstrated in phenomenal proportions. All over the world, people have come to respect and even simulate the Jamaican way of expressing and being. And yet, in many instances, we did not do enough to protect it, and so many persons either distorted it or appropriated it or even denied our involvement in its creation.

For example, we will have to do something about the Oxford dictionary’s description of Reggae as “a West Indian style of music with a strongly accented subsidiary beat”, as recorded in the Concise Oxford Dictionary Ninth Edition 1995. In the first place we must insist that Jamaica’s ownership of this product is identified in the definition. Secondly, we must determine for ourselves if the description is accurate.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this prowess that our people demonstrated in the area of creativity has been the mainstay of national life over the years. With it has come a unique culture, vibrant and conspiring, that has consistently fused cultures and expressions to create our own Jamaican Brand.

In this realm, the promotion of creativity must be linked to our celebration of the role of the creator. This can only be done through the recognition of the rights of the creator to own and use his/her creation and to benefit from it in some way. This ownership must be given prominence because it has been one way in which grassroots people have been able to re-construct their identity and fortify their livelihood.

Of course, it is well known that based on my own experience in the sector, all this is crystal clear. I have seen grassroots persons like Shabba Ranks and Bounty Killa have their personal worth increase tremendously through the music. I have been a part of the business and I am aware of the possibilities but I know that the empirical evidence provided by the Vanus James study will assist all of us, including myself, in our discourse with the corporate and financial sectors, Ministries of Finance, Ministries of Trade, and other public sector entities who have to interface with or create policies for the cultural industries sector.

This is why I am so upbeat today. On this International Reggae Day, we come together in what I expect to be an inspiring dialogue for action, in other words not another talk shop but an avid deliberation for determined action.

We must come first to acknowledge again some universal truths about cultural industries, as follows:

    Cultural and creative industries represent one of the fastest growing sectors of the global economy, representing up to 7% of the world’s GDP with growth forecast at 10% per annum.
    Studies show that creative industries contribute to the economies of the regions in which they are located through income generation and purchases of supplies and by enhancing the design, production and marketing of products and services in other sectors.
    Jamaica has competitive advantage in this area and possesses the potential to develop its cultural industries into a major economic sector.
    The Vanus James study indicates that the Copyright Sector contributes about 4.8% of the GDP of Jamaica and accounts for 3% of all employment in Jamaica. By comparison, copyright industries contribute 7.8% of the GDP of the USA (2001), 5% of the GDP in Australia (2000), and 3% of the GDP in Singapore (2000).

Then, based on today’s theme we will take the dialogue to an out-of-the-box kind of discourse in which we attempt to chart new courses of action for wealth creation and sustainable prosperity. Today, we will be discussing how to bring Copyright to the same level as Trademarks.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Trademarks, by their very nature, command the respect of financial institutions. They do not face the challenges that confront owners of Copyright in securing funding for expansions or any type of activities. For example, if the holders of the trademarks for Island Grill and Red Stripe should need financing, they would no doubt be welcomed as good corporate citizens with enough recognizable collateral to secure ant type of financing that they need.

This is what we need to be discussing here today: how to obtain the same level of openness to holders of copyright, whether authors of songs, books, or visual artists. The idea is for us to discuss approaches that will allow the financial sector to recognize and accept that the collateral of the Copyright is just as viable as in the case of the Trademark.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I could tell you horror stories of mortgaged houses, bankrupt and depressed artists, stories that would make Jimmy Cliff’s Sitting Here In Limbo seem like the theme song of many artists:

Sitting here in Limbo
Waiting for the tide to turn
Sitting here in Limbo
So many things I’ve got to learn
Meanwhile they’re putting up resistance
But I know that my faith will lead me on.
Sitting here in Limbo
Waiting for the dice to roll
Sitting here in Limbo
Still got some time to search my soul
Meanwhile they’re putting up resistance
But I know my faith will lead me on.
I don’t’ know where life will take me
But I know where I have been
I don’t know what life will show me
But I know what I have seen.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I charge us today to ensure that at the end of the day the creator knows how the dice will roll. We must today use our energies and our creative forces to utilize the experiences of the years to improve the conditions of the artists today for tomorrow.

Like Cliff, the creators of this wonderful Jamaican product know where they have been, they know what they have seen. They witnessed many possibilities but were unable to convince those who held the purse strings to invest in those possibilities. For them, life has been the proverbial master taking them to exotic and unknown places and forcing them to see and experience some very strange things yet never being able to convince the gatekeepers of strong finances to enter into this experience with them. Yet, in spite of all that, they have been able to distinguish themselves in the outstanding product we celebrate today.

Our task therefore is to bring the knowledge of the past as well as of the current and future possibilities to the table and guide our financiers to think out of the box. The Honourable Prime Minister has on many occasions implored us to take risks for national prosperity and sustainable development after all these years of experience that we have lived. It is high time for us to move out of the experience of Limbo and slumber and awaken and nurture the sleeping giant of Jamaica’s cultural industries.

Ladies and gentlemen, I can attest that these industries carry enormous potential for poverty reduction, wealth creation, solidarity and peace. We must believe in what we have created as a people. We must defend it with our laws, hone and develop it with our renewable creativity, enabling strategies and insightful policies, and we must engage and enhance it through our investments, incentives and creatively constructed regimes.

I wish to close by inviting the financial sector representatives present to engage with creative sector in the search for solutions to the capitalization needs of the sector. It cannot be business as usual if the area most widely held globally of Jamaica’s competitive advantage continues to be starved of the necessary capital that would make it viable. We in the Ministry have begun the walk as we are seeing about the establishment of a Cultural Industries Enhancement Fund within the configuration of an Entertainment and Cultural Industries Council. We will be calling on everyone for moral, financial, organizational and programme support for these initiatives, so listen out.

It is interesting that in the international arena, there is precedence. David Bowie and a host of stars have finally been able to secure financing on the basis of his market recognition and the projected royalty earnings of his extensive song portfolios. We must be able to do this in Jamaica.

In closing, I again want to thank the organizers of this forum for what a great orator would describe as the “audacity of hope” (of course, I speak of Barack Obama, himself a creative artist), the audacity of hope with which we come to this forum. May I encourage us all to boldly advance for the cause is good and the benefactors are many. Ultimately, it will benefit all of us, although I would dare to say, more so the grassroots people of our country, who are primarily the creative force and the creative source, the ultimate survivors.

Terra Nova Hotel
International Reggae Day, July 1, 2008

 

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