Cook Islands Holds First Copyright Protection Workshop

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Creative work plagiarized overseas, implementation of law needed

By Sarah Wilson

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, April 22, 2015) – Creative souls from all over the Cook Islands will gather today in an effort to learn more about protecting their artistry.

More than 30 people are expected at the first-ever National Workshop on Copyright and Related Rights, held at the Ministry of Cultural Development.

Ministry policy officer Elizabeth Ponga says the idea behind the workshop is to enlighten Cook Islands people as to what is involved in copyright, its relevance and importance.

Secretary of Cultural Development Sonny Williams says while there is a Copyright Act in the Cook Islands, there is a need for good systems to actually implement it.

"The need for this workshop is that a lot of the composers who are seeing their work plagiarised or copycatted overseas."

Williams says people who create should be able to benefit from their creation.

"There’s nothing worse than creating something and seeing someone else make a lot more than you, or seeing someone take your work and turn it into something else."

He says this lack of profit and protection is killing creativity.

"There a lot of people here who gave up creating songs because their work was being ripped off."

The Ministry now aims to give local musicians the tools necessary to protect their material.

Dr Jon Jonassen, a well known composer and copyright advocate, says he has been working on copyright issues here in the Cook Islands for over 40 years.

"The copyright law is a very close one to my heart and I am very passionate about it."

He says there is now a need to do something about the Copyright Act 2013, so that when it is implemented it will recognise authors and composers.

"We’ve been trying for years to create a system which benefits us, is fair to us and acknowledges our original works."

Jonassen says many people have the perception that the Cook Islands is small and doesn’t have a need for copyright laws.

But, he says it’s not the size of the population that matters, it’s the size and potential of the music.

"Our music is extremely popular around the Pacific, so our market is not too small to be protected properly," he says.

Jonassen is urging the government to recognise the economic benefit of properly protecting the copyright of music that comes out of the islands.

"Other countries make billions of dollars from the music industry, whereas we make very little. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

Until now, artists haven’t had the support from government to push the industry further and protect it properly, he says.

"Composers have been crying for help for a long time and we haven’t been a priority until now, until today with this workshop."

The workshop is organised by the World Intellectual Property Organisation in cooperation with the Ministry of Cultural Development and the Government of Australia.

It will run from 8.30-4.30 today till Friday and includes a number of speakers from the Cook Islands and overseas.

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