Copyright Act signed into law

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 34            August 24, 2000

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On Monday, August 21, 2000, Attorney General Godfrey Smith and His Excellency, Governor General, Sir Colville Young held a public ceremony for the signing of Belize's Copyright Act, 2000. These laws were established for the better protection of individual property rights of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other creative people. Interestingly, Belize was the last of the Caricom countries to enact the copyright legislation.

    Backed by the World Trade Organization, the Copyright Laws were mandated to be in effect by January of 2000. It was explained that government had hoped to delay the signing until next year, with the intent to better prepare the country for its effects. The recent, rather hasty, enactment is a result of certain individuals who, at the present time, believe their copyrights are being violated in this country.

    Music industry and cable television operators are suspected to be the ones most affected by the Copyright Laws. Attorney General Smith told those gathered that the signing, "does not mean the beginning of the end of cable television in Belize. It does mean that the government and cable operators and other stakeholders will have to be united, organized and work together in negotiations with international copyright holders-" He continued, "The government is committed to the protection of the rights of Belizean authors, musicians and other artists in the exploitation of their works, so that they too could derive equitable economic remuneration for their work. The balance at all times must be maintained." The Attorney General also explained that many other countries have implemented these laws and have been approached for their assistance in educating ours.  

    Public opinion is mixed on the enactment of the copyright legislation. On the upside, local ethnic artist's copyrights will be respected and some may gain financially from royalties and such. On the downside, radio stations and other music entertainment must pay for the right to play artist's songs. Cable operators and the Belizean public may suffer because of the television industry copyrights. As with other laws, regulatory agencies will need to be established and enforcement will be a challenge. Regardless of all this, the laws were created to protect the fruits of people's labor and Belize is required to comply with them.
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