GH copyright laws are dead —FIPAG
The President of the Film Producers Association of Ghana (FIPAG), James Aboagye, has described the copyright laws of Ghana as virtually non-existent because they are unable to protect the rights of creators, thus hampering the growth of the creative sector.
He attributes this to the failure of the Copyright Office of Ghana to go digital, which is discouraging the creation of new works and hindering the fight against piracy and other copyright infringements in the country’s creative industry.
In an interview with Graphic Showbiz, Mr Aboagye expressed concerns over the Ghana Copyright Office still wallowing in the analogue mentality.
He explained that the existing copyright laws lacked provisions that would allow content creators to assert their rights in case of piracy and other challenges they face when unauthorised reproduction of their work occurs.
“Last year, I created content which went viral, and a Nigerian uploaded it on his YouTube channel. When I decided to upload it, YouTube flagged it. I was told I could not do it because it was not mine. How do we fight these issues? Our current copyright laws do not make provision for these online contents and your intellectual property just goes down the drain in just a second.
“So, if someone pirates your content and you manage to take them on, and they get a good lawyer to defend them, you are finished, because there is no legal backing for you again,” he added.
Mr Aboagye also called for urgent action from the Copyright Office to issue digital certificates to movie producers and creatives.
These certificates, he argued, would empower creators to claim ownership on prominent video streaming platforms and challenge unauthorised uploads effectively.
“The Copyright Office is not doing much. They don’t even have plans to develop digital certificates which we could stand on that to challenge certain institutions. This is because when someone uploads your content and you challenge it, they can grant your request if you have a digital certificate for the content you have produced,” he emphasised.
In addition to advocating for digital certificates, he called on the Copyright Office and its stakeholders to educate the public on copyright issues, with particular emphasis on royalties and acquisition processes to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure fair compensation for creators.
“There is much education to be done to sensitise stakeholders on these copyright issues, royalties and acquisition to avoid conflict of interest”, he added.
In response, a Senior Research and Documentation Officer at the Ghana Copyright Office, James Owusu Ansah, said attempts by the Copyright Office to change their operations to digital have been unsuccessful due to financial and logistic constraints.
He said despite a strong desire to adapt operations and build capacity, the Office has faced obstacles in making this transition.
“We went to the Public Accounts Committee earlier this year and one of the challenges we presented was the Office’s inability to keep pace with current trends due to financial and logistic limitations.
“We have had this digital agenda on the table for a long time. However, because we don’t have the muscle to pull it through, people think we are not doing anything about it. We have even engaged stakeholders on it before,” he said.
He also explained that efforts at reviewing the copyright laws were ongoing to cater to the contemporary needs of creatives. Although he would not give a specific timeframe, he assured that the office is actively working to make it a reality.
“Our copyright laws came into existence in the analogue era, and the Office has made plans to adjust that. We have engaged stakeholders and strategic partners. However, the revision of laws involves a complex and time-consuming process. So, we can’t tell when it will be reviewed, but our people in the creative arts space should be assured it will surely be reviewed to suit their needs,” he added.
Touching on the digital certificates, he shared with Graphic Showbiz that the Copyright Office is in the process of upgrading existing certificates with digital barcodes and other features to strengthen content creators’ rights, particularly when challenging the validation of their ownership on streaming platforms.