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Poster of the CompetionRecently, the Nation newspaper put out an outrageous advertisement calling poets to send in their love inspired poetry to be featured on the 14th February 2014 and get this, they pay Kshs. 1,000 to have the poetry for the poetry to be published and a lucky winner will be picked to win a getaway.Forget the getaway bit, it is insignificant in my view and a derailing tactic. As an intellectual property lawyer, I want to dissect this ludicrous marketing strategy.

Firstly, it it the month of love. It is obvious and common sense that what sells like hot cakes this month is anything that expresses the lovey-dovey mood that engulfs our environment. For a publishing company, they should be paying to have such content to boost their sales or popularity. Instead, the publication moves for a cheap and disrespectful move. A marketing strategy that I believe is insulting and a total fail.

Only in Kenya does the publishing industry tend to take advantage of creatives especially poets and writers as well as featured personalities. International practices have it that any person who contributes to a publishing house’s content, gets paid. Do you think Beyonce revealed pictures of her daughter Blue Ivy for free? Not! There is a very fierce and competitive bid that goes on behind the scenes. The interested publishing houses pay through their corporate noses to be the first to cover the story and make their publication a hit.

Only in Kenya does it work vise versa and dress such proposals as quid pro quo attempts. Some claim that it is a marketing tool. But a marketing tool for whom I ask? In my opinion, this ‘marketing tool’ works for a lucky few. It is never guaranteed. As our publishing industry hides behind the quid pro quo facade only one party benefits; the publisher. And the other party comforts themselves by rationalizing how perhaps the circulation is still on going and that the benefits will take time to manifest.  Why are some of these most lucrative corporates adapting such cheap and insulting marketing strategies that undermine creatives?

A poet like any other is a profession. Their skills in applying language, wordplay and editorial abilities and not to forget their ability to tell stories creatively and in captivating ways makes them so. The creative industry is a profession just like any other and it should be respected. The creators should be recognized and paid their dues.

Allow me to highlight a terribly harsh and annoying reality, for those poets who shall be bold enough to present their poetry, they are likely to never benefit from that poetry in monetary terms. After paying the said Kshs. 1000, the works are likely to become commissioned works. The amount paid is likely to be treated as a consideration. As much as I am yet to read or know of any Terms and Conditions attached to this stunt, this is likely to be the unfortunate reality. If they are lucky they will get credit and their names appear whenever the poetry is used. The publication house on the other hand will use and reuse this content. Perhaps even to perpetuity. And they will continue to gain from it while the poor poet is left behind forgotten.

In my humble opinion as an intellectual property lawyer, I say shame on you. We are trying to build a culture that allows the creatives do what they do best and earn a living from it. We also want to encourage our children that they can make something of themselves through their intellect and creativity. Such promotions and marketing stunts are just misleading, insulting and unfortunate. They take advantage of a creative’s hard earned sweat.

How are we going to create employment when the potential employers are busy crafting not so clever ways to exploit talent without spending a dime? How are we going to catch up with the Millenium Development Goal and Vision 2030 on creation of employment when there are such occurrences and practices?

Just to digress a bit, did you know that a script writer if lucky earns Kshs. 40,000 from creating a script that will become a motion picture? The not so lucky ones get Kshs. 10,000 or less. How is this acceptable yet it is the basic existence that leads to the creation of a motion picture as a comedy or a film? We need to start acting fair.

Also, our creatives need to start being tough and dangle the carrots. Do not budge until the terms are favourable for you as well and reflect your true worth. It is imperative to master the art of negotiating. Make sure you secure your intellectual property before you go about sharing your marvelous script or story. This is the only way you will have a legal claim to your work in case of an infringement.

I have read a few blogs concerning this promotion, some written by poets and others friends of poets, expressing their opinions on this competition and I agree with them. More So, I agree with the blog post by the renowned Kenyan poet Wamathai and reiterate, Nation needs to rethink this competition. Pay the poets, not them to pay you.Pay the Poets

It is time we started paying what the creators deserve and stop undercutting them. Such practices encourage the culture of desperation which we are trying so hard to be rid of so that the industry can move forward. Talent should be recognized because it is exceptional not because the author is desperate and is willing to go to any lengths to be heard and get ahead. This is the only and best way forward to appreciating creatives as professionals.