Ghana nationalizes folklore, threatens jail for folk artists

Ghana recently updated its copyright law as part of complying with suggestions from the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which recommended that developing nations "nationalize" folklore and charge foreigners for using folk art elements in commercial works. But the Ghanian bill reportedly gets it totally wrong: it could lead to prison sentences for Ghanians who sell art based on folklore, traditional knowledge, dance or song.

He mentioned specifically the clause that imposed a fine, jail or both on any Ghanaians who commercially use, sell or distribute Ghanaian folklore or translations without Government's permit.

The Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana said the Bill would create a terrible situation for the future well being of the country's culture, which required a constant dynamic recycling to stay alive in the Global Village.

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Update: Garth sez, "Here's an interesting PDF of a paper by John Collins, who was actually a member of Ghana's copyright board. Interestingly, the whole copyright ball was kicked off by none other than PAUL SIMON! Being a well-meaning human, he paid $16,000 to the Ghanaian government for a song that he lifted for his album 'The Rhythm of the Saints'. This got the Ghanaian government thinking about all of the revenues that they were losing as THEIR OWN citizens plundered Ghana's cultural heritage." Read the rest

Tech and sustainable development in Ghana

Good interview with Ethan Zuckerman, the founder of Geekcorps, on how technology and sustainable development meet each other.

There were two very real reasons for Net connectivity in Ghana. One was communication with the diaspora. So many Ghanaians live in Europe and the U.S. that email is a very effective way of bridging that gap. The other thing was the notion that there could be a market for Ghanian goods and services worldwide, and that market was going to be a lot more reachable online than it would be from any other medium.

But it was a very weird time because you'd find a cyber-cafe and there would be computers and staff but no electrical power, or computers and power but no telephone lines, or everything you needed but no one to plug things in and make them all work together. And across the board I felt you had an abundance of entrepreneurs who were willing to try things but they had a real lack of skill sets. So that was the problem I was interested in: Could we find a way to do skill transfers between people in the IT industries in the U.S. and Ghana?

Obviously, the project expanded from there. While Ghana continues to be a flagship presence for us, we also have a large presence in Mongolia. We have smaller programs in Rwanda and Jordan, and we're doing some work in Armenia and Bulgaria. At this point we work in a dozen nations in total.

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Discuss

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