Kirani Ayat, Intellectual Property Issues and What’s Important
I recall an incident where two individuals had a go at each other over an issue that, in hindsight, shouldn’t have been an issue. To cut the story short, one person made a purchase without discussing consulting the other party. When concerns were raised about the purchase, the purchaser roped in the other party, to which the person took an exception. In their quest to explain their roles, a heated argument ensued. Meanwhile, the mediator was sitting silently, watching things unfold. In the end, the mediator apportioned blame to the purchaser for not doing enough due diligence. Concluding on the matter, the mediator remarked “I love conflict. It reveals the truth despite it being ugly’’.
In the past few weeks, the creative space has been in a choke-hold with discussions over intellectual property – what it is, who owns it, how to use it, the process of acquisition, and more. These discussions were occasioned by a tweet from the handle of Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo. The tweet was promoting a video by the National Tourism Authority in lieu of its “Year of Return” agenda.
Kirani Ayat, a known afro-fusion Ghanaian musician took issue with the video, pointing out that some scenes in the video were taken from a video for one of his songs “Guda” without his consent. This outcry elicited support from many on Twitter, thus warranting a response from the National Tourism Authority. The response from the tourism authority would end up imploding the issue rather than calming the storm. According to the National Tourism Authority, an agency- Samsal Agency- was contracted to execute the video thus any backlash should be directed at the agency. Samsal would repudiate this accusation in their response.
Stream Kirani Ayat’s latest Album ‘Aisha’s Sun”
The brouhaha highlighted some issues within the whole creative art space. Despite the growing popularity of Ghana as the hub of culture in Africa, especially in the past three years, there exist no sustainable structures. Simply put, Ghana has gained more cultural visibility than it has with structural currency.
The structural currency includes the lack of investments within the space by the government and stakeholders (this is a conversation for another day). There is also a paucity of professionals within the space compared to other competitive markets on the continent. Tied to the lack of professionalism is the lack of knowledge about the sector- another monster of a discussion.
It is a given that solutions are needed to solve some of these problems, albeit problems no dey finish. The solutions would cover short, medium, and long-term issues. The government, being the biggest investor, must help improve the space through legislation, financing, and exchange programmes while the other major players tap in to sanitize the space.
Despite these challenges, there are some successes to celebrate. Event organizers are improving, music societies are springing up giving artists better offers – Ghana Music Alliance & GHAMRO for instance. Young music executives enrol in music programmes like Music Business Academy for Africa (MBA) to build their capacities. Digital music platforms with actual footprints on the continent like Boomplay are amplifying the creativity of artists, offering them useful insights into how to take advantage of the digital space. Ghana as a cultural powerhouse deserves to have some of the world’s cultural imprints within the space.
What the Kirani Ayat and the National Tourism Authority, as well as Spiky and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) nexus revealed is the lack of understanding of copyright and intellectual property law- the procedure of procuring and the usage of creative works by independent creatives and the stance of those accused of illegally using a creative’s work. It also showed how important it is for creatives to understand the space they operate in and the laws governing it. Again, once you decide to be a Creative, having a lawyer on retainer should be a must.
The Kirani Ayat incident is not the first case to come to light. What is different this time is how the recent incidents within the creative space helped escalate the issue. The issue happened at a time when the president/government’s popularity metric is at a very low point. The economic distress is hitting harder than ever. Inflation is at 34%, Utility prices are constantly rising, cost of living is menacingly biting.
The youth – who constitute a larger percentage of the population are feeling the pangs of the economic downturn more than you can imagine. Booing the president at the successfully held Global Citizen event held last month was the youth expressing their frustrations at how bad the economic situation in the country is. One would argue that booing the president at the event was their form of protest since other avenues of protest are non-existent.
How the government spokesperson and defenders responded to the booing episode, post the event, aggravated the issue online. So, for the president to have tweeted a video with “stolen” images without proper clearance was bound to be fodder to cud on by creatives, fans, and sympathizers of Kirani Ayat. Again, there have been numerous cases of creatives accusing businesses and organizations of illegally using their creative works without authorization without any consequences. Creatives have had enough of that. For them, this is the time to act. It behoves all of us to fight for what is right.