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Commerce threatens arrests over artistic work theft

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The Minister of Commerce Professor Wilson K. Tarpeh has disclosed a plan by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to issue a notice to prohibit people from illegally using the works of young Liberian artists which denies them their just economic benefits.

Minister Tarpeh gave the warning Monday, 17 August when he was speaking at a program making the induction of the Executive Director of Copyright Society of Liberia (COSOL) at the offices of the Liberia Intellectual Property on UN Drive.

The commerce boss assures that the MoC will also grab and dismantle individuals engaged in duplication of the work of artists, noting that the government remains supportive in ensuring that intellectual property theft is stopped and artists are able to benefit from their works.

According to him, President George Manneh Weah continues to recognize the values of COSOL and continues to demonstrate his support in ensuring that it achieves its goals.

He notes that because President Weah himself is an artist, he therefore continues to support the works of COSOL which has witnessed the induction of Mr. Prince Emmanuel Decker as COSOL Executive Director.

Also speaking at the ceremony, COSOL’s Deputy Director Mr. Clifford B. Robinson, Jr., expresses gratitude to all those who have meaningfully contributed to the work which has seen COSOL becomes a vibrant organization in Liberia.

He calls on Liberian artists to be attached to a record company or have their own record label that will make it easier for COSOL to collect their royalty benefits.

For his part, the president of the Movie Union of Liberia and Chairman of the National Collective Society of Liberia (COSLIB) Ambassador Gregory Artus Frank provides historical information concerning the oldest society in Liberia which he names as the National Culture Troop of Liberia which was established in 1979, currently headed by Mr. Kerkura Kamara.

He also names the Liberia Writers Association, established in 1982; the Musician Union of Liberia, 1989; the Liberia Photographers Union, 2000; and Union of Liberian Artists, 2005, among others. He alleges that despite their oldness, all of these societies have nothing concrete to show.

Meanwhile, Mr. Roland W. Morris, I, a prominent Liberian IP Consultant and Senior Adviser to the Minister of Commerce is calling on all creative artists, authors, composers, songwriters, dramatic groups and digital animation producers working in Liberian and foreign countries to begin to work with the Copyright Society of Liberia in four core areas.

In a special statement made during the induction of Mr. Prince Emmanuel Decker in Monrovia, Mr. Morris cited the four core areas as the process for their mutual economic benefits.

The veteran Liberian IP Consultant names the areas as Registration and Documentation, Licensing, Collection and Distribution of Royalties, and International network for information exchange.

He also highlights the integral roles the Minister of Commerce Professor Wilson K. Tarpeh has played over the past 40 years since he became acquainted with him at a high level executive meeting at the Executive Mansion back in 1984 and becoming crystalized upon becoming the Minister of Commerce with oversight for the Intellectual Property Sector of the economy.

He then encourages the incoming Executive Director of COSOL Mr. Prince Emmanuel Decker and members of the secretariat at the Copyright Society of Liberia (COSLIB) to do their best in advancing the goals and objectives of their memberships.

Providing further insights on the creative sector, Mr. Morris recalls the story of collective administration of rights in creative works that began in France in the 18th century.

He reveals that on 3 July 1717, a famous author, Beaumarchais called together a group of 22 other authors to formulate a response to the under-remunerated use of their works by a company called “Theatre Francais” or “the French Theater.”

According to him, Mr. Beaumarchais’ efforts led to a change in 1791 when France passed the first law on authors’ rights, which saw the industry then progressed to see the need for authors, composers and other creative artists to benefit from the use or the reproduction by others of their respective works in any form.

He avers that the first collective licensing body or Collective Management Organization (CMO) in the music industry was done in the year 1851 when the French society SACEM (Society of Authors, Composers, and Music Publisher) was established to administer their economic rights from the public performance of their musical works.

He continues: “This date is significant, because it predates the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in 1886, which the Republic of Liberia acceded to in 1986, a hundred years thereafter.”

He indicates that the Intellectual Property laws in Liberia would not be complete and set to international standards if a CMO is not established.

By Emmanuel Mondaye–Edited by Winston W. Parley

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