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Integrating Copyright Awareness in the Pedagogy of Art in Ghana

The historical evolution of teaching and learning in class reveal that the creation and use of art remain an integral aspect of education. During the time of the pre-historic man, various art forms were used in many ways to communicate, keep records and pass on information from generation to generation, when there were no written records and texts were not developed. The walls and ceilings of the caves, where the pre-historic man lived, suggesting a classroom setting, were covered in paintings, mainly the animals of the chase – bison, wild cattle, horses and deer. The artworks done at that time were used by the pre-historic men to teach and learn about their preys; identifying their basic features and characteristics and also learn how to attack them. Through this, the pre-historic man learnt to culture himself, which forms the essence of education. The relevance of this pedagogical culture is still seen today in the way art is used to teach various subjects in class, to give clarity and meaning to what is being taught, in the forms of illustrations, drawings and sketches. When an art is used in a way to teach and facilitate learning, it becomes a Knowledge Based Material (KBM).

Since the creation and ownership of Knowledge Based Materials (artworks) is connected to the socio-economic development of an individual and a nation, copyright plays an important role in protecting the right of the artist and the user of the artwork that has been copyrighted. Thus, copyright grants the artist an exclusive right to copy, reproduce, distribute, sell and authorize the use of the work. The law governing copyright also grants the user the right to use the artist’s work for purposes that are rather non-commercial and non-profiting, without infringing on the artist’s right. In such instances, copyright awareness may mean knowing that copyright exists and having knowledge about it. Copyright awareness is considered to encourage the optimum use of copyright by both artists and users of their works.

The essence of art as a Knowledge Based Material can be seen in the teaching and learning of Art itself when it is being taught and studied in class. It is obvious that the pedagogical approach to the teaching and learning of Art in class has also, for a long time, been using artworks in the forms of illustrations, drawings and sketches. In this case, optimizing copyright awareness is important to prevent copyright infringement. For instance, an earlier study reveals that, in most Ghanaian institutions where Art is taught and studied, the lecturers and teachers also employ the use of others peoples’ artworks such as illustrations, drawings and sketches etc to teach their students and also perform other academic obligations while the students also rely heavily on the understanding and the use of other peoples’ works to facilitate their learning.

Art is a field of study that trains and develops the human intellect, skills and creativity for artistic creations. Such creations are often referred to as artworks or art. Since art involves creations of the human mind, it is also considered as a form of an intellectual property. Like any property in land, it has a legal dimension as it is exposed to various kinds of human trespasses that constitute the infringement of the fundamental rights of the artist. The creator of any artwork has his moral and economic rights vested in that work which must be protected from exploiters. The moral right of the artist explains the right that demands that the artist must be acknowledged whenever the work is used. This is based on the principle that the name of the artist is synonym to his work. Any modification, transformation and deformation may be an attempt to take away this right from the artist and to bring his image into disrepute. The economic right of the artist grants him an exclusive and excluding right to profit from the sales and use of his works. Even though the economic right is transferrable, the moral right is not.

On the other hand, the issue of lack of copyright awareness among students and artists exposes them and their works to a lot of copyright infringement cases. The atmosphere created here makes it conducive for a lot of copyright infringement activities to go on which may seem to undermine creativity and originality. Unfortunately, out there are people who take advantage of artists’ ignorance to exploit their works. Therefore integrating copyright awareness in the modern way of teaching and learning of Art becomes very important in our modern world where advanced technology has made it possible to copy and use artworks in many ways.

It is obvious that the creation and use of art today is becoming more sophisticated and high level of skills is now required from the artist to be able to produce works that will serve their purpose. Historically, the purpose of instituting copyright is to recognize the challenging environment in which these works are produced and to reward creators of such artworks for their time, labour, skills and creativity invested in originating them. However, it is sad to note that the institutions which are set up to train artist to acquire the skills and creativity required in creating artworks fail to equip the students with the requisite knowledge of copyright to protect their works from pirates and activities that undermine the basic rights to their works.


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