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US increasing focus on Intellectual Property protection in Guyana

United States Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway.

The United States (US) appears to be stepping up its focus on intellectual property protection in Guyana, with American Ambassador, Perry Holloway urging locals not to buy bogus products and welcoming signals that government is about to draft modern copyright legislation.

“Today, on World Intellectual Property Day, I salute them and encourage all of us to support local content creators – from artists to inventors to software engineers – by purchasing their work through legal means and applauding those advocating for change,” he said in an Op-Ed to mark World Intellectual Property Day on April 26. This year’s theme is “Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity”.

Holloway said as the Guyana government prepares “to take up the pen on copyright legislation, he commended the ministers, advocates, and content creators that have been and will continue to champion an improved framework of IPR protections in country.

“They are the visionaries that see, today, how legislation, treaties, and outreach will ultimately benefit the people and the economy,” he added.

Owners of creative works still have to rely on the 1956 British Copyright Act that Guyana inherited from Britain at the time of independence in 1966.

Guyana is particularly known for the reproduction and sale of  music, movies and textbooks. Several years ago, when a local mass-producer of copied foreign textbooks was on the verge of winning a bid to supply the Ministry of Education, the United Kingdom Publishers association had taken legal action. That had eventually led to several agents for the British publishers bidding to supply original versions of the textbooks.

Concerns have also been raised about some television stations relaying foreign content without permission and also obtaining local sponsorship. A number of local businesses have also named their entities after well-known established names.

The US Ambassador noted that the American embassy’s recent event on the role of copyright protections in promoting local content and business development in Guyana reflected that theme, from an opening speech by Minister of Public Telecommunications Catherine Hughes to the inclusion of remarkable women artists that added a wealth of depth to that panel and audience.

Holloway said through their voices and the insight of all of the event’s panelists, they have concluded that it is necessary to stop stealing other persons’ original works to ensure the creators continue to earn and contribute to Guyana’s development.  “To honor content creators around the world, we must consider how we can protect their work from theft.  Only this will ensure they receive the credit and financial reward to enable them to keep using their creative talents to better themselves, to better their craft, to better Guyana, and ultimately to better the world,” the American envoy said.

He noted that every year on World Intellectual Property Day,  the opportunity is seized to learn about the role that patents, trademarks, and copyright play in promoting innovation, creativity, and progress.  “As we celebrate this year under the worldwide theme “Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity,” we recognize the ingenuity of women around the world, who are bravely using their ideas, designs, and products to shape a brighter future for us all,” he added.

He said the the protection of the creativity and hard work of writers, artists, musicians, and others makes prosperity and progress possible.

During his time as U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, he said he has seen firsthand that Guyanese are hardworking, intelligent, and resourceful. He praised the ingenuity and ability of Guyana’s artists and entrepreneurs , saying theyu and their creations are “part of the social fabric and cultural patrimony of Guyana, highlighting the true extent of this country’s wealth beyond its already vast natural resources.”

“As representatives of Guyana’s country brand domestically and overseas, writers, artists, filmmakers, fashion and textile designers, mobile and web application coders and creators, and inventors in all sectors send a strong signal to the rest of the world about Guyana’s values, traditions, and knowledge.  Protecting their creations and their intellectual property rights (IPR), is the right thing to do,” he said.

He stated that it is not just individuals who benefit, but research shows that robust legislation to protect Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) encourages the development of the arts and breeds innovation in science and technology.   Holloway said IPR was not only a matter for wealthy countries.

“Many people assume protecting people’s IPR only helps high-income countries where companies spend large amounts on research and development (R&D).  However, economists have learned that improving patent, trademark, and copyright protections help economic development in countries at all economic levels.  This is because a strong IPR framework aids open trade, which in turn creates greater trust between trading partners, helping increase economic prosperity,” he said.

He said  the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s international index found a strong link between robust IPR protections and increased technology transfers and exchanges, access to foreign direct investment, and employment. He said even countries without large – or even visible – R&D sectors benefit from a strong IPR regulatory framework because it gives them more access to new partnerships, technology, and knowledge.