Book industry group repeats need for copyright control

Book industry group repeats need for copyright control

Senior staff reporter

Monday, October 05, 2020

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AS a majority of schools adopt online teaching modalities, the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) and the Jamaica Copyright Licensing Agency (JAMCOPY) are renewing a decade-old call for the education ministry to acquire the adequate licence to cover the copyright of materials being used in schools.

Two weeks ago, Education Minister Fayval Williams assured the BIAJ that the ministry would ensure the necessary agreements on copyright and copying printed material in schools are in place in the shortest possible time. The education minister also committed to working collaboratively with the BIAJ as the country moves into utilising e-books and more of the online platforms for teaching and learning.

The conversation is based on issues that Latoya West Blackwood, chairperson of the BIAJ, raised during a meeting with Williams regarding concerns regarding copyright and downloading of material from textbooks, where there was no agreement on copying printed material in schools.

But West Blackwood said despite having the commitment from the education ministry, it is important to keep the conversation going to reinforce the importance of respecting copyright.

Further the BIAJ chairperson said it is no longer a situation where one person copies the whole contents of a book and resells it, and for that reason priority must be given to acquiring the requisite licence.

“The same way we are making the transformation to support the education sector legally by providing digital works and facilitating online learning, it is the same way that that illegal activity of breaching copyright that used to be limited by physical copying has moved over into the digital realm in terms of piracy,” West Blackwood said. “It's always been a problem but the risk of it and the real threat and the pace at which it can unfold is reason enough that the ministry in particular, as the body that is primarily responsible for hundreds of institutions, need to urgently meet with JAMCOPY to resolve and discuss the long drawn out issues of getting proper licensing in place. Our records reflect that that discussion between JAMCOPY and the ministry has been dragged out for more than 15 years.”

West Blackwood added: “We are working with the minister's assurance but the next step in terms of an action has to be that meeting with JAMCOPY. It's not just about lobbying to protect members. It will increase accessibility for the people we are trying to benefit, which are the students and other stakeholders in the education sector so that they can have more access. With the proper framework for licensing, more creators will feel comfortable sharing their work and making it accessible to the people who need them.”

Regarding whether copyright breaches has increased since COVID-19, Carol Newman, general manager at JAMCOPY, said while the entity cannot assess the quantity of breaches since the pandemic, it believes that teachers are copying educational material for distribution online and otherwise, at least as much as they previously supplied in-class copies.

Subsequently, Newman said this is the reason JAMCOPY has been advocating for a national solution through the Ministry of Education.

Further, Newman said the path for proper licensing has already been paved as a licence agreement is ready to go and has been shared with the ministry from as far back as 2005. However, it has not been given credence.

“JAMCOPY has been pressing the Ministry of Education for a solution since 2004. So far, every approach we've made has foundered after one or two meetings,” Newman said.

According to Newman, the infringements which typically involve photocopying from books, newspapers, journals, magazines — any published material — and handing out those copies to everyone in the class.

In the online teaching environment, Newman said, it also includes scanning and sharing scanned pages and PDF copies through e-mail, messaging apps, learning management systems and remarked that at post-secondary institutions, this copying is more likely to involve scanning and electronic distribution.

“As to how much is copied, this can range from a page or two, up to an entire chapter or more of a book. There have also been several reports of entire books being electronically shared,” she said.

Newman explained that the practice diminishes our international reputation, as other countries have for decades had effective educational licensing.

“It threatens the viability of our creative industries, which includes our local book publishing industry. Why would people compose music, make films, write and publish books if anyone can simply take what they want without paying?

“Publishing plays a vital role in educating, informing and shaping the world view of the nation's human resources. Books are the bedrock of literacy and numeracy, providing the gateway to the acquisition of knowledge, and the development of the skills and abilities of the population. Indigenous publishing plays a unique cultural role in helping the nation to generate, record and disseminate knowledge and information about its own culture for the development of its own people,” Newman said.

She added: “We must therefore, as a nation, seek to to promote respect for copyright and compliance with the Copyright Act, so that our creators and publishers can be compensated for the use and reuse of their intellectual property and we can all continue to benefit from their creativity.”

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