FIGURE OF SPEECH: Newman getting her point across during the conference launch last month. (Below) Sharing a moment with Minister Anthony Hylton and Dr. Marcia Forbes.
On the eve of the publishing mega-conference The Online Mind, TALLAWAH spends time talking with Jamcopy boss Carol A. Newman about Jamaica’s growing creative industries, securing the rights and earning power of local artists, and why it’s important to share the knowledge.
Carol A. Newman is always on the go. Given her jam-packed working life it isn’t hard to see why. She had to reschedule our interview two weeks ago due to last-minute developments. It isn’t just the demands of her nine-to-five that keep her on her toes but the sheer volume of work that she chooses to take on. Her workload is nothing if not heroic.
In addition to being the head of the Jamcopy (since the agency’s inception almost two decades ago), Newman runs her very own private practice aptly called IP Caribbean; she does consultancy work for firms across the region; she serves the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organization and, to top it all off, she’s the mother of eleven-year-old twin girls. “I don’t have time to do much else because my work and my family takes up most of my time,” she admits in a masterpiece of an understatement. We’ve finally met up to talk at her cozy Ruthven Road office on a bright, postcard-perfect Monday morning.
It’s been 16 years since Newman was interviewed and instructed by the legendary Shirley Carby (of Carlong Publishers) to set up systems for a new agency that would cater to the needs and address the concerns of members of Jamaica’s publishing industry. That was in May 1999. Fast-forward two years later, and Newman has been promoted to General Manager. She’s been in the post ever since. Overseeing operations at Jamcopy is a job that draws on Newman’s expertise in a number of areas, chiefly systems management and the all-important mix of intellectual property and creative expression.
“It’s been an interesting time, I’ve seen the industry change drastically, but more so in the last two years,” she tells TALLAWAH, sitting behind a sturdy desk piled high with paper work, her crimson sleeveless dress making its own style statement. “But it’s also been a very challenging time due to the disruption that the rapid changes in technology have brought about.” It is in this context that she sees her own leadership role navigating a very steep evolutionary curve. “I see my role as helping to make sense of the disruption and find opportunities as a result, and helping to empower creators and publishers so they can have a sustainable and viable creative industry. I strongly believe that our locals must be empowered to push the industry forward because nobody can do that better than we can.”
A proud daughter of Westmoreland, Newman studied accounting at CAST (now the University of Technology) after outshining her peers at the Manning’s School. She followed up those years of study with stints at the University College of the Caribbean (UCC) and, through online development courses, received training in intellectual property from Geneva’s renowned World Intellectual Property Academy. After spending some 12 years in the legal field, Newman found herself “at a juncture”, which led, fortunately for her, to the offer from Carby to kick-start Jamcopy. It’s become the role of a lifetime.
“We help local talents to manage their copyright issues. We give licenses and collect a fee and distribute royalties. That is our raison d’etre,” she explains in her crisp diction. “We are a rights-management agency so we manage everybody whose work is contained in a publication. Somebody has to look out for our writers and artists, and we gladly take on that task.” But, in more recent times, Jamcopy has been positioning itself as a supporter of the country’s creative industries on a whole.
And, come to think of it, that’s a big part of the appeal of this month’s Jamcopy-organized conference The Online Mind, November 2-5 at the Jamaica Pegasus, which will feature contributions from highly respected local, regional and international publishing houses. “We will touch on a wide range of issues related to the business of publishing, how to develop your digital book for marketing, what kind of skills you need in today’s digital market as opposed to days gone by,” Newman reveals. “We’ll also be discussing intellectual property, how it is protected and exploited etc. All of these conversations will be part of the week of discussion.” (For more, log on to theonlinemind.com)
Events like these, with increased regularity, will help the agency fulfill its mandate, Newman believes. “Among the things I enjoy most about this job is that light-bulb moment persons gets when they realize there’s a lot more to them being an artist or a writer; more than just creating a painting or writing a book and getting it sold. There’s a lot more they can earn,” Newman points out. “That brings me real satisfaction. For example, that smile when they come to pick up their royalty cheque at the end of the year. It really is a joy.”
All that said, keeping Jamaica’s creative folks well-informed and up-to-date on their rights and privileges is all in a day’s work for Carol Newman. To that end, she wants to do more. “Sometime ago I did a seminar on the business of art for the JCDC’s Visual Arts competition, and it was a totally eye-opening experience for a lot of the young artists in attendance,” recalls Newman who is in her mid-40s. “And that’s what I want to do now, more empowerment and education drives to raise the level of awareness among the population, especially the young Jamaicans. That’s important to me.”