A compendium of craft masquerading as art, art masquerading as craft, and craft extending its middle finger.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Paul Simon flips Ghana the Bird!


This morning, BoingBoing posted a link to an article from a Ghanaian website that discussed a copyright bill that is being reviewed by the legislature there. This law would make it a crime for artists in Ghana to use THEIR OWN folkloric culture without a LICENSE from the government! As ludicrous as it sounds, the law has been kicking around for several years now. I started digging a little deeper, and I found out that like many terrible things in this world, it can be traced back to PAUL SIMON! The Paul Simon that is busy making demon babies with Edie Brickell...the same person who inflicted the musical "The Capeman" on us a few years ago (not the dead bowtie wearing Senator). It seems that when Simon was making his 1991 followup to "Graceland", "The Rhythm of the Saints", he cribbed from a Ghanaian folk song. Being a well-intentioned human, he paid the Ghanaian copyright board $16,000 in royalties.

This got the government thinking....if we can make $16,000 from Mr. "Get on the Bus, Gus", then imagine all of the money that's slipping through our fingers as native Ghanaians mine THEIR OWN CULTURE! They immediately established a copyright board to look into the possibility of licensing the use of folklore to their own people, culminating in the law that is before the legislature right now. The articles that I have found have mainly dealt with musical issues, but they do raise the example of Kente cloth, which is a huge part of Ghanaian folk culture, but also belongs to the surrounding nations on the Gold Coast.

Here is a link to a paper written by John Collins, who sat on the original copyright board. He explains the background (and Paul Simon connection!) and controversy surrounding the proposed law.

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