Ms Ajoa Yeboah-Afari, the Chairperson, Editors Forum, Ghana, has urged editors and journalists to avoid copyrights pitfalls in their line of duty by giving credit for other people’s intellectual properties they use.
She said the media profession in Ghana was in dire need of guidance on copyrights; stating that “I would say that most trained journalists here do know about copyright, but it’s not an in-depth knowledge. In fact, we’re quite careless about such matters.”
Ms Yeboah-Afari said this on Tuesday in her presentation at a pre-event roundtable on the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day in Accra.
The pre-event was on the theme “Authors/Journalists Rights in Africa”, was attended by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Executives and senior editors.
Other panel members include; Mr Gabriel Abaglo, General Secretary, Federation of African Journalists; Mr Zakaria Tanko, Journalism Lecturer, Barrister and Copyright Specialists; Mr Korieh Duodu, Barrister and Media Specialist; and Mr Ebo Hawkson, Reporter, Daily Graphic.
The panel discussion sought to develop an African perspective to the issue of copyright in the media.
The objective of the discussion was to put together a practical guide for African authors and journalists on what they need to know about authors’ rights and copyright.
Ms Yeboah-Afari cited that one constant source of friction in the media landscape in Ghana, between print and electronic media, was the rather brazen way the electronic media made use of stories from the print media, usually without giving due credit.
“Even when there is attribution, it is done so grudgingly, that it is difficult for the listener or viewer to appreciate the original source of the report,” she said.
“And because of the way radio or television operates, usually, not only do they steal a print media story, they go ahead and call up the people involved to do live interviews with them.
“That way, to add insult to injury, the effect is that the radio or TV station ends up owning the story that they got to know about through the sweat of a print journalist.”
She said recently, she had to remind two editors about the importance of crediting the foreign material they used, text and photos, because that was ethical; and that if somebody somewhere was using their original work without crediting them they wouldn’t like it.
“Our TV channels do the same with reports from foreign stations. Of course I have no way of knowing if some of them have special arrangements by which they are allowed to use the same video clips and or sound bites that one gets when one watches foreign stations. Maybe they do!
“I should add that the print media are also guilty of liberal use of stories from the foreign press. The only difference, perhaps, is that the print media do credit their sources religiously,” she stated.
She noted that however, with regard to that, the issue was probably not that we want to steal material from the foreign media, but rather that at present none of our media houses had the capacity to operate an office or even a desk in a foreign country – not even the Ghana News Agency.
“Talking about the Ghana News Agency, they, too complain that many times their stories are used without crediting them – and some of the media houses don’t even pay the Agency!” she said.
“But, as has been pointed out, in a digital world, an Internet world where information is so abundant and copying is made so easy, what is to be done?” Ms Yeboah-Afari quizzed.
She said: “Personally, when I was an Editor, if I came across a feature on the site of a foreign media house that I thought might be of interest to my readers, I would try to contact that media house to seek permission to use it.”
She also recalled that when she came across something written by a Ghanaian living abroad, which she thought would be of interest to people of Ghana, she would make the effort to contact them for their permission to use the material.
“I’m not sure that other editors do likewise. But maybe we have had an easy ride for a long time and there might come a day there could be trouble for an editor,” she said.