Pressured parents turn to bootlegged textbooks
-It’s copyright piracy, says bookstore owner
September 7, 2003
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A typical bill for a parent who has to buy textbooks for a secondary school child writing more than five CXC subjects is in excess of $80,000. So it is no wonder that many parents are risking copyright infringement penalties to photocopy the much-needed texts or are buying bootleg copies.
One parent with six children told Stabroek News that there was nothing wrong if some persons copied the books and sold them cheaply, since the high costs for textbooks often left the less fortunate students without study material.
But the issue has, as in previous years, angered at least one legitimate importer of textbooks. According to Ovid Holder, Manager of Universal Book Store on Water Street, it is about time the government started to take some action.
“They are infringing the copyright. This is the biggest criminal racket. It is wrong. It is wrong. It is illegal. We seem, in Guyana, to take copyright as something to joke about. It is a very serious offence.”
Holder has been waging this war against copyright pirates for some years, but laments the fact that the government seems to be turning a blind eye to the issue. While Stabroek News was in his store, he pulled a box of run-off books from one corner. He said these were turned in by a lawyer of one of the “culprits” and tagged with an apology.
But the business seems to be unstoppable. At another store in the city, a large number of obviously copied books were on display for sale.
“If something is being done illegally it will affect the person who is importing it, selling it and paying income tax,” Holder argued. “We are paying the government. We are doing a legitimate business. The individual who prints these books is not only breaching the copyright [laws], affecting the publishers and the authors, [but] eventually the government will not get the money they are supposed to get, because they [the copiers] are probably ducking the money they make from this illegal business.”
He added it was easy to spot the difference.
“You can tell from the actual reproduction. The real McCoy is clear, the binding is all different... the real copy is perfectly put together.” Ironically, the pirates also print the warning against copyright infringement, that “no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without prior permission of the publisher.”
The argument for others, however, goes the other way. If there are no copyright laws in Guyana protecting the musician and his music, why should the book business be any different?
“That has nothing to do whatsoever with anything... but, of course, this is why we are so corrupt with everything in this country, because we are saying well if somebody can’t afford, what’s wrong with them doing this? What you are doing is condoning [an illegality]. If somebody snatches your chain and comes to me to sell it, I am as guilty...” Holder reasoned.
He said the issue had been raised time and again with the government, but one official reportedly “took all the evidence,” but still pointed out that some parents could not afford the high-priced texts.
“In Jamaica, the government did act and I think it is about time our government starts acting at all these illegal activities. We will pursue this. But what is needed is for the British Publishers Association and all the lending institutions to be made aware of what is happening and blacklist Guyana from funding... then pursue the matter through the courts.”