Jamaica Gets “Very Low” Economic Return on Reggae: Study

Bob Marley

By the Caribbean Journal staff—-

Jamaica brought reggae to the world — but it may not have brought back much economic return, according to a new study at the Victoria University of Wellington.

PhD student Sharma Taylor’s research shows that, due in large part to a failure by many reggae singers and songwriters to appreciate their copyright, Jamaica gets a “very low” economic return on its reggae music.

That’s because the rights on much of this music is foreign owned, she said.

Taylor, who has completed her PhD study at Victoria University’s Faculty of Law, focused her research on Jamaica’s Copyright Act, which “complies with the major copyright treaties but may not allow the Jamaican music industry to foster national development.”

Taylor interviewed 57 people in the Jamaican music industry pursuant to her study.

Of course, reggae and Jamaican music in general have provided a number of other benefits, Taylor said, from crime control to national and cultural identity.

“Historically, music has been used by people from different ethnic groups as a way of coping with dislocation from home, of finding identity and human dignity, and making everyday life possible,” she said.
Of course, copyright is about balance — on the one hand, there need to be financial benefits, but, on the other hand, using other people’s work can spur creative development.

“Allowing exceptions to copyright law for people to borrow and use works to make something new reflects what has historically happened in Jamaica,” she said. “This acknowledges the fact that the music industry is not just about making money.”

“The use of other people’s work to create something new and different flourished because copyright law was not enforced,” she said.