Feature Article of Saturday, 17 November 2012
Columnist: Jackson, Margaret
By Margaret Jackson
November 15, 2012
There have been attempts to throw dust into the eyes of Ghanaians by Pastor Mensa Otabil, founder and leader of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) and some staunch New Patriotic Party (NPP) apparatchiks that no one has the right to use, quote or play back any of Pastor Otabil’s sermons without his express consent and permission.
And to add insult to injury somebody who goes by the name Ace Ankomah, the guy who NPP supporters normally quote as an ace lawyer and lecturer at the Ghana Law School has been blabbering around that indeed it is a violation of Pastor Otabil’s copyright for the NDC or any individual to use any part of his sermons without his permission.
But Section 19 of the copyright law clearly proves Pastor Mensa Otabil, Ace Ankomah and the host of NPP supporters who have jumped into the fray to defend Mensa Otabil wrong. They are totally wrong and feeding the Ghanaian populace with lies and falsehood. In fact the law clearly puts them to shame and even gives the NDC further ammunition and authority to use all or any part of Pastor Otabil’s sermons for any purposes.
This debate has come about following Pastor Otabil’s ill-timed and ill-fated press conference on Monday in which he lambasted and branded the NDC as an evil and marauding bullying force that was bent on impugning his name and integrity without shame.
Those of us who have stood our grounds that Pastor Otabil has no case and is acting as a cry-baby have also been branded as part of the evil force, but God does not take it kindly when people created in His own image are slighted and thrown into the back burner.
Section 19 (1) of the copyright law which talks about Permitted Use of Copyright clearly and explicitly states in unambiguous terms that, “The use of a literary or artistic work either in the original language or in translation shall not be an infringement of the right of the author in that work and shall not require the consent of the owner of the copyright where the use involves (a) the reproduction, translation, adaptation, arrangement or other transformation of the work for exclusive personal use of a person, if the user is an individual and the work has been made public.
Section 19, subsection 2 (ii) further nails Pastor Otabil by stating that it not an infringement to broadcast on current economic, political or religious topics, the reproduction of an article in a newspaper or periodical or the broadcast or other communication to the public where a statement of the source is provided unless the article or broadcast when first published or made was accompanied by an express condition prohibiting its use without consent.
Further down the copyright law, subsection 2 (iii) also states that it is permissible to use lecture, address, sermon or other work of a similar nature delivered in public, where the use by reproduction or communication to the public is exclusively for the purpose of reporting fresh events or new information.
If we have this free flowing information on copyright law, why would Ace Ankomah become a stomach supporter and be hopping from one radio station to the other without taking the pains to read this law? Who is he trying to please or who is he trying to deceive? It is bad when a lawyer who is supposed to know the law and explain it to the public simply turns a blind eye to deceive the public.
But the situation becomes murky when that lawyer trains would-be-lawyers. What do you think such a person like Ace Ankomah would be teaching his students? Ankomah should have been the first person to have read the copyright law and advice Pastor Otabil on the merits and demerits of his arguments, but because the NPP has a grand design to win the up-coming elections at all cost, they have resorted to anything that they think will stick in the minds of Ghanaians.
That is why Pastor Otabil who took so many years to build his reputation has seen it imploding before his very eyes because people who surround him may have given him a wrong button to press hoping that, that press conference would have brought the whole country rooting for him whilst nailing the NDC for good.
I am of the view that if Pastor Otabil had read portions of the copyright law he would not have uttered these words, “It is a violation of my person and my integrity. It is a sign of grave impunity for any individual to seize a person’s thoughts without their consent and use it in a way that seeks to expose them to public hostility and disrespect. No one has the right to force their thoughts into my words. I own my thoughts. I own my words. I own my beliefs.”
I also know that if Pastor Otabil had not been misled he would not have gone on to add the following, “The significant observation is the apparent schizophrenic response of the purveyors of this agenda. In one breath they hailed me when the dubious sound bite seemed to favour their cause and in the next breath condemned and insulted me when the church came out to set the records straight.”
And now the mother of all bullets, “This is defamatory. This is unethical. This is criminal. This is malicious. This is Machiavellian. This is evil.”
The NPP and Pastor Otabil should go and read the copyright law and come again. I must repeat that never again should a well-respected man of God be so angry and go so low and punch so low to fall so low in the eyes of ordinary people in society. Let’s pray for Pastor Otabil!