Jamaica is a cultural superstate — a powerhouse over-bubbling with talent and creativity. From mento, ska, rocksteady, and reggae to dance, sports, fashion, culinary arts, and others, Jamaica has demonstrated over many decades our cultural prowess on the global stage.
We see where, as a developing country founded on slavery and the concept of Afro-racial inequality and despite our relatively small size, Jamaicans and Jamaica as a nation brand continue to capture and inspire the imagination of many across the world, something we have done for generations. Large numbers of people, not just tourists but cultural and entertainment icons, flock to our shores physically and/or virtually to get a piece of Jamaica — sun, sea, sand, flora, fauna, music, dance, culture, food, people. We clearly have assets as a country that we can and should be proud of.
How can Jamaicans and Jamaica extract more wealth sustainably out of Jamaica's cultural and creative industries (CCIs)?
Why haven't more Jamaicans and Jamaica benefited from this expansive cultural asset base that we possess?
Why have so many Jamaican cultural and sporting icons lived and died impoverished without ever having reaped the rewards or tasted the fruits of their labour as others have?
These are the questions that have plagued us for far too long as a people. We don't necessarily have all the answers now, but we know a lot more now than we did in the past.
Firstly, we have to acknowledge that the cultural and creative industries of the people of Jamaica have contributed immensely to Jamaica's global image and national brand value and that contribution needs to be recognised, respected and appreciated. We have to remove the stigma attached to these industries that have been seen historically as non-professional, non-commercial folklore of the lower socio-economic segments of our society. For that reason, among others, the cultural and creative industries of Jamaica and the people who are the backbone and fabric of these industries, have not been appreciated beyond their entertainment value. Particularly, their economic value and contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) have been undervalued and the sector is not seen as a major contributor to the national economy.
There have been very few attempts to comprehensively value the cultural and creative industries of the people of Jamaica, whether on the macro or micro-economic levels. In 2005, the economic contribution of the copyright-based industries to Jamaica's GDP was valued at 4.8 per cent. Jamaica's cultural and creative industries have been estimated to bring in J$2.2 billion annually (5.2 per cent of GDP). There is need for many more such studies more regularly, but more inclusive and expansive to value the economic contribution of the intellectual property-based industries in Jamaica. This is important for several reasons. It is important for the cultural and creative industries to see themselves and to be seen, heard, managed and treated by others, in Jamaica and internationally, like an industry/cluster of industries of value, which contribute to national GDP.
Having relevant data will aid in the proper inclusion of the cultural and creative industries in national planning and to inform policy development and attract resources and investment in the industries. There is therefore a very real and operative need to do routine evaluations of the cultural and creative industries of the people of Jamaica. This would include a comprehensive mapping of the cultural and creative industries of Jamaica, as was recently undertaken by Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), which is also critically important for valuing, planning and development purposes. Such a mapping in the future should identify what cultural and intellectual assets within the cultural and creative industries are part of the national heritage and patrimony and which are private assets of Jamaicans.
Thirdly, we need to strategically commercialise the cultural and creative industries of Jamaica, to extract more of the revenue from it, for the sustainable benefit of the cultural and creative industries and practitioners of yesterday, today and tomorrow's Jamaica. That requires, after the mapping and the valuation of the industries' economic worth and potential, a strategic business plan on the macroeconomic level to be developed by the Government of Jamaica and the industry leaders and players, within a public-private sector partnership, to support and empower the industry practitioners to maximise the present and potential opportunities of Jamaica's cultural and creative industries.
A business plan for the cultural and creative industries was developed in 2016 under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and is currently being reviewed by that ministry through the National Cultural and Creative Industries Council (NCCIC). Of course, a business plan needs to be activated and implemented to succeed, which would require a permanent public-private partnership structure to facilitate strategic planning and implementation to achieve the objectives via the strategies and activities set out in the said plan. Those strategies must look at how government and the industry can leverage Brand Jamaica to strengthen Jamaica's cultural and creative industries in the global and digital markets, particularly with a view to securing more returns on investment for our cultural and creative micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
Fourthly, we would need to devise an appropriate mechanism to manage the cultural and intellectual assets within CCIs which are part of the national heritage and patrimony of Jamaica and Jamaicans collectively. This includes a business plan for that sector too, including monetising and commercialising our national archives and national cultural experiences and cultural tourism.
Undoubtedly, intellectual property rights have a fundamental role to play in our ability to unlock and maximise the economic potential of Jamaica's cultural and creative industries. Whether in the public-private partnership or the public patrimony opportunities, intellectual property rights including copyright, trademarks, certification and collective marks, geographical indications and traditional knowledge, in particular, are necessary to incorporate in the business plan within a defined Intellectual Property (IP) Strategy.
On the micro-economic level, recognising that CCIs are comprised of MSMEs, it is also clear that we need to be able to value the IP of the many cultural and creative industry MSMEs who are at the core of the cultural and creative industries. In that regard, the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) has embarked on a project to develop an IP valuation and collateralisation framework for Jamaica, at the end of which, it is anticipated that MSMEs will be able to get their IP valued and accepted as collateral for loans and as assets on their balance sheet. The same IP valuation approach may be used to also value the national, collectively owned IP that would be managed and commercialised primarily by the state, but in consultation with other stakeholders.
Finally, Jamaica would profit from a benefit-sharing protocol and mechanism, that would ensure that proceeds of the commercialisation of national IP assets are allocated to particular budgetary items and public and private sector enterprises, initiatives and communities, in CCIs. These could be used for the purposes of assisting and empowering those in the cultural and creative industries, to improve their skills, competitiveness and global market penetration.
Only by envisioning and instituting these industries as valuable and economically viable and by setting out in a clear, legislative and policy-based framework, a plan of action involving mapping the CCIs, developing and implementing a business plan with a solid IP Strategy, and engagement of multiple public and private entities, mechanisms and structures, will Jamaica be able to comprehensively identify, protect, commercialise, manage and benefit from the untapped wealth of our creativity, towards personal and national growth and development. Only then will Jamaica and Jamaicans be able to reap the real rewards and enjoy more of the immense economic value of our cultural and creative industries.
Dr Marcus Goffe is Deputy Director/Legal Counsel of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO). He is an attorney-at-law with over twenty (20) years' experience in several areas of law including intellectual property law, entertainment law, media law and human rights law. He holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from the University of the West Indies, a Master of Laws (LLM) degree in Intellectual Property Law and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in law from Queen Mary, University of London. Dr Goffe's PhD focused on the protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions in the Caribbean.