I had with some difficulty managed to obtain copies of ER footage from TVJ but the quality was variable (much of the footage was unusable because the volume wasn’t consistent) and they had locked it so that I couldn’t go in and extract the clips I wanted to show during my presentation. Fortunately I had enough material to cover the gaps where I had intended to play the clips and the talk was a great success. I understand TVJ’s legal department’s zeal to ensure that their footage is not abused in any way but I think they are penalizing the wrong parties in the process.
I mean how likely is it that someone who writes asking for permission to use video clips in a presentation at an academic institution, providing all the supporting documents necessary, is going to turn around and sell the footage and violate TVJ’s copyright? Even if that had been my intention the quality of what I was provided would have been enough to render it useless for such purposes. Meanwhile I hear that multiple DVDs of TVJ’s hit series Rising Stars are freely available on the streets of downtown Kingston. A case of misplaced zeal and priorities?
I would recommend that the legal eagles at TVJ and other media entities take advantage of the fact that the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations (IFFRO) is holding their 37th Annual General Meeting at the Ritz Carlton in Montego Bay from Oct. 26 to the 31st, next week to be precise.
Now the ‘Reproduction’ in their name is not a reference to biological reproduction or cloning but ‘reprography’ or the legal reproduction or copying of copyrighted works whether textual, artistic, musical or any form of creative content. Their mission statement explains it best: “IFRRO works to increase on an international basis the lawful use of text and image based copyright works and to eliminate unauthorised copying by promoting efficient Collective Management of rights through RROs to complement creators' and publishers' own activities.”
JAMCOPY, the Jamaican Copyright Licensing Agency (on the board of which I sit), is the local organization responsible for organizing this prestigious international meeting here. All week long international policy for the licensing of musical works, newspapers, visual material, digital products, amongst other things is going to be discussed and signed off on right here on our shores. One hopes that the local legal and media fraternity will take this opportunity to bring themselves up to date on these issues of intellectual property; IP as it is called for short is one of the most important products of the twenty first century and its licensing and regulation are going to be key components in the future welfare of nations.
I returned to Jamaica just in time for the Walter Rodney conference that was held from October 16th to the 18th. Rodney as many of us know was a Guyanese historian who taught at the University of the West Indies in the 1960s. What made him unique was his activism, his insistence on making education available to the poor, his focus on rehabilitating pride in things African. As Wikipedia has it:
Rodney was sharply critical of the middle class for its role in the post-independence Caribbean. When the Jamaican government, led by prime minister Hugh Shearer, banned him, in October 1968, from ever returning to the country, because of his advocacy for the working poor in that country, riots broke out, eventually claiming the lives of several people and causing millions of dollars in damages. These riots, which started on October 16, 1968, are now known as the Rodney Riots, and they triggered an increase in political awareness across the Caribbean, especially among the Afrocentric Rastafarian sector of Jamaica, documented in his book, The Groundings with my Brothers.
The conference, organized by the Institute of Caribbean Studies in collaboration with the Centre for Caribbean Thought at UWI, was held to mark the 40th anniversary of the Rodney Riots. One of the stand-out moments came when the floor was opened for discussion after Honorary Professor Edward Seaga, a former Prime Minister and leader of the Jamaica Labour Party which had been in government when Rodney was made persona non grata made his presentation. Mr. Seaga held forth for 45 minutes instead of the prescribed 20 and talked about Garvey and Rasta and everything it seemed but Walter Rodney, disappointing those who thought they were going to hear a personal aside on the events of the late 1960s. While he did eventually touch on the subject of the conference Professor Horace Campbell of Syracuse University and author of the book Rasta and Resistance got up during the discussion period to say that had Mr. Seaga been one of his students he would have given him an F. To his credit Mr. Seaga accepted the criticism graciously.
Another memorable moment for me was the opening talk by Pat Rodney, Walter’s widow. Walter Rodney was killed in Guyana in 1980 by a bomb disguised as a radio transmitter. He was attempting to run for political office there. For many on the African continent and elsewhere Rodney was a figure of the stature of Malcolm X. For instance my friend Achal Prabhala, read his writings in Bangalore, India and was moved to go all the way to Guyana to find out more about him. Read his “In Search of Walter Rodney” which appeared in Transition magazine.
Surely a Rodney memorial at UWI is overdue? I visualize a beautiful mural by Ricky Culture on one of the blank walls at UWI.
Finally I returned to find that Ataklan’s song Sun Starts to Rise (Ataklan is one of the most nonconformist, critical voices in Caribbean music today), complete with music video is now available on YouTube. Apart from being inspirational and simply brilliant, it has special meaning for me because it was born in my house about six years ago. I was hosting Klan on his first visit to Jamaica from Trinidad and woke up to hear him belting out the first few lines of the song. When he mentioned that his dream was to do a song in Jamaica I took him to Mikie Bennett at Grafton Studios where the initial production was done. It’s taken a while (at periodic visits to TnT I’ve had the pleasure of being treated to intermediate stages of the song) but Klan has finally got it off and it really is a beauty. The video is minimalist but eloquent. Do watch it.