Cayman copyrights: Plank-walking time for intellectual piracy

Bootleg DVDs. Knock-off merchandise. Pirated content, broadcast and online.
While many people may consider having access to such things as being a quirky perk of living in the Cayman Islands, many other people – who have international law on their side – consider it as outright theft.
Our country’s laissez-faire attitude toward copyright infringement is a third-world anachronism to which we cannot afford to cling, that is if we want Cayman to have a first-world economy.

Accordingly, the government is pursuing a long-overdue update to Cayman’s relevant legislation, which is based on U.K. law that is nearly 50 years old, dating from before the advent of the Internet, personal computer software or even international TV broadcasting. The first step is for Cayman to adopt the copyright-related provisions from current U.K. law, followed by the enactment of Cayman’s own Copyrights Law and the updating of Cayman’s Patent and Trademarks Law.

The vast majority of Cayman residents and visitors probably won’t notice the immediate effects of such laws, apart from changes to the way their favorite video store may operate. But such “inconveniences” to local businesses and consumers are merely byproducts of bringing our copyright regime up to standard, not the primary focus of the new laws.

“[Anyone] who’s selling [pirated] DVDs, they may find themselves in difficulty very quickly,” attorney Huw Moses said. “But this is about being internationally compliant … not just to attract business, but to do business internationally out of the Cayman Islands.”

And overseas, as we are well aware, is where the real money is.
In recent years, various Fortune 500 companies have asked Mr. Moses and his law firm if he can assure them that their intellectual property (i.e., “creations of the mind,” as opposed to physical property, such as the contents of one’s wallet) will be secure in Cayman. “That question is becoming more difficult to answer,” he said.

Elaborating on that point, Commerce Minister Wayne Panton (himself a prominent attorney before pursuing public office) said Cayman needs more robust protections for intellectual property if our country is to attract technology companies to our shores.

“Intellectual property rights are featuring very significantly now as assets of businesses,” Minister Panton said. “New tech-based [company] registrations will boost Cayman’s economy. This type of modernization was envisioned as part of [Cayman Enterprise City].”

Just as Cayman’s foundational framework of financial services laws enabled the creation of our banking, accounting and legal sectors, the enactment of modern copyright, patents and trademark legislation should give Cayman a competitive advantage (or erase an existing disadvantage) over other international jurisdictions that our client companies may be considering. (Note that inadequate protection of intellectual property is often cited as the greatest impediment to companies looking at doing business in China, the largest country in the world.)

Ultimately, the updating of Cayman’s intellectual property laws appears to be a necessary step in our country’s maturation process. While many of our readers may miss being able to obtain brand-new DVDs for less than $5, and some companies may be forced to alter their business practices (or risk going out of business), on balance it seems that the new legislation is squarely on the side of the overall public good. 

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  1. Most of the pirated DVDs were of horrible quality. Shot in a movie theater. You can hear people talking in the background and the occasional head blocking the picture.

    And, although I have never done this, I am told that it is not hard to download the same movies on the internet for nothing.