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Fine, but limited Copyright Act

Kevin Hunte

Kevin Hunte

There is nothing wrong with the local Copyright Act, but Barbados would have to rethink its criminal law in order to prosecute pirates who benefit from the intellectual property of others.

In a public lecture today at the National Library in Bridgetown, Deputy Registrar of the Corporate Affairs Intellectual Property Office, Kevin Hunte, told a small gathering that the act was actually quite extensive.

Answering a question as to why pirates of movies and music were charged for selling without licences, rather than under the Copyright Act when caught with merchandise, he responded:

“There is nothing wrong with the Copyright Act. As I said before, the Copyright Act is actually quite comprehensive, quite up to date, but remember that we are in a common law jurisdiction versus other jurisdictions. Basically what that means, and most of the world is actually a common law jurisdiction, and how that filters into our criminal law is that you are innocent until proven guilty.

“Following on from that principle is that you must have a virtual complainant… So if I own a television and you break into my house and steal my television, … you driving fast and the police pull you over sees a brand new television, still wrapped in plastic, ask for a proof of ownership, you have none, yes they are going to seize you and your television.

“Now fast forward to the other arm of law enforcement which is the director of public prosecution, exactly what are they going to charge you for? How do they know that you have stolen it unless the owner, who is the virtual complainant, comes forward and says this is mine, you have stolen it. That is the problem that we have in the scenario,” he said.

The same held true for movies and music, he indicated, in that unless someone from MGM, Lionsgate, Disney or one of the big companies decided to fly to Barbados to pursue action, they could not go forward under the act because there was no VC.

“In other jurisdictions like Mexico, Colombia and some other civil law jurisdictions they have slightly changed that to allow for immediate prosecution in certain parameters, certain scenarios, but we have not done so as yet, because that would involve a complete rethink of the criminal aspect of our law, which also would include policy considerations,” said Hunte. (LB)

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