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House Approves Amendments to Copyright Bill

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, makes a point as he closes the debate on the Copyright (Amendment) Act, which was passed in the House of Representatives on June 9. Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, makes a point as he closes the debate on the Copyright (Amendment) Act, which was passed in the House of Representatives on June 9.
The House of Representatives, on Tuesday June 9, passed the Copyright (Amendment) Act, which seeks to increase the protection of creative works used in Jamaica.

The passing of the legislation takes Jamaica a step further in becoming compliant with its treaty obligations, having signed the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty.

Under the Bill, copyright protection for local works will be increased from the life of the author plus 50 years, to 95 years from the end of the calendar year in which it was first made available.

Content belonging to corporations will also be increased from 50 to 95 years, from the end of the calendar year in which it was published.

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, in his response, said the amendments involved input from the stakeholders.

“The stakeholders have all agreed that because these amendments have been long in coming and because it is not always easy to go back to the drawing board and go back through the process and for a variety of other reasons…. we should be bold enough to move to a 95-year extension,” Mr. Hylton said.

He added that this was recommended notwithstanding that some of the other jurisdictions have not yet moved.

He was responding to concerns raised by Opposition Spokesperson on Culture, Olivia Grange, that the extension in copyright protection may put local creators at a disadvantage over their international counterparts.

“The extension to 95 years relates only to protection in Jamaica’s jurisdiction but not in overseas jurisdictions to which we will have to pay substantial amounts of foreign exchange because we are net importer of foreign entertainment products,” Miss Grange said, while voicing her support for the Bill.

She noted that radio stations currently play more foreign music and cable/television show far more foreign television shows than locally produced content.

“So, what will happen is that we will, in fact, be paying out to foreign copyright holders in foreign exchange for the continued use of foreign works in Jamaica, while our own rights holders will only benefit up to the 50, 70 or 80 years that exist in other countries,” Miss Grange said.

Minister Hylton said other changes will be made as discussions on the issues continue.

He also informed that the regulations to accompany the Act are now in draft form and will come to the Parliament soon after consultations with stakeholders.

The Bill also seeks to: establish a voluntary deposit or registration system for copyright works to be hosted by the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO); set the duration of copyright for works created by the Crown and corporate bodies; provide access to ‘orphan works’; empower the Minister to make regulations for prescribing fees; extend the rights of libraries and archivists to archive material that is in digital format; and protect first importers of sound recordings in Jamaica by ensuring them the first right of distribution of same.

The Bill will go the Senate for its approval.

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