Established dancer and choreographer Dr L’Antoinette Stines is the latest Jamaican creative to file a copyright infringement lawsuit against a famous United States music star. Reports from several international news outlets, including TMZ and Daily Mail, state that Stines is suing Jay-Z and Beyoncé for using a recording of her voice on the intro for their track, Black Effect, without credit nor compensation. Stines’ claim comes months after veteran dancehall artiste, Flourgon, reached a settlement in his case against US pop star, Miley Cyrus, for copyright infringements.
Two popular attorneys-at-law with whom The Gleaner spoke pointed out that both high-profile cases should be taken as an indication that Jamaica’s creatives are beginning to recognise their worth and the value of their intellectual property.
“Let me just say that overseas acts have been utilising Jamaican slang, Jamaican lyrics and Jamaican music for decades without permission. We have always taken our musical craft seriously, but what is new now is that we’re now beginning to take the legal and business aspects more seriously and fighting for our rights (literally) now,” said Ron Young, a popular entertainment lawyer.
Sought after product
“We are a country which is very influential and our people are of immense talent. Our product is highly sought after and what these lawsuits do is bring credibility to our musical product and show that we are no longer going to be trampled on and taken advantage of, and that can only be good for us as an industry.”
Fellow attorney-at-law and former manager of copyright and related rights at the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), Joan Elizabeth Webley, shared similar sentiments. “International studies have shown that when countries start to benefit from copyright, the first step is them recognising and protecting those copyright and intellectual property rights. The increase in mitigation among owners of copyright in Jamaica is something that’s positive to me. I just hope that everyone is aware that it is a right to be respected. So as Jamaicans start to advocate for their rights, I hope it is not taken as us being harsh by others,” she said, pointing out that the industry tends to be ‘stand-offish’ when creatives know their rights and exercise them.
“There has been a pattern in our music history of artistes being penalised for knowing too much. You will hear some(artistes) say people don’t want to work with them when they start talking about their rights, and that’s a colonial legacy, if you ask me. As Jamaicans being ready to assert ourselves, we should not be seen as ‘don’t work with Jamaicans because they will sue’. Filing lawsuits and protecting your copyrights is business-as-usual in the international music industry, so I would really hope Jamaicans asserting themselves does not have negative repercussions. The only message that these moves should be sending is that we are now ready for a sophisticated industry and are able to do better business because we know what we bring to the table. There is nothing wrong in that. As creatives, you have to value yourselves. That’s what Flourgon did and that’s what L’Antoinette Stines is doing now,” Webley told The Gleaner.