On 3 December 2020, during the special edition of the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico, three authors, Felene Cayetano from Belize, Carlos Wynter Melo from Panama and Jorge Comensal from Mexico, connected through the International Forum of Authors (IAF), and discussed the challenges that authors face in their work in Latin America.
The discussion was moderated by María Fernanda Mendoza, IAF Consultant for Latin America. The participants highlighted the importance of building networks representing Latin American writers, illustrators, visual artists and translators to foster an environment of linguistic and cultural diversity in which creators receive the support and recognition that allow them to continue their work.
Felene Cayetano explained that her first experience with understanding the full scope of copyright came through attending a panel discussion between the Belize Intellectual Property Office and Access Copyright (Canada) at a book fair in Belize. She later discussed the challenges Belizean authors face, primarily because most are self-published or independent. The challenges include only being able to publish between 100 to 500 copies, not being able to negotiate international editions or translations and having limited access to digital markets. Felene then suggested opportunities for collaboration within Latin America through existing networks such as Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (SICA), International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO) and IAF. Her final point was to encourage the audience to consider purchasing legal copies of an author’s work in order to support the creation of future work by the author.
Carlos Wynter Melo said that he had first raised copyright during a meeting of Central American Writers in Chicago, US where he had the opportunity to meet organisations that support authors, and the experience made him wish his country and Latin America had something similar. Years later, he became involved in the founding of the first Panamanian entity for management of reprographic rights, the Sociedad de Editores y Autores de Panamá (SEA Panamá). Since then, he has been unable to get away from the topic. When he began to carry out editorial consultancies, he realised that authors and editors are a key collaboration, and affirmed that the editor is irreplaceable, even with new opportunities technology provides for authors to self-publish. He concluded by saying that he is confident that IAF will become the global community that authors need.
Jorge Commensal then spoke about his experiences as an author and how his first experience with authors’ rights was when he wrote his first novel, Mutaciones, and signed his first contract with terms he didn’t understand, and that did not predict many situations that he faced later on in his career. He spoke about the difficulties that appear when foreign works are published, as a result of legislation that obstructs intercultural dialogue. He commented on difficulties translators face as authors, as they defend their rights and receive a lack of recognition from some publishers. He questioned the universal sale of rights in Spanish that limits the possibilities of translation for different markets. Finally, he said that a greater union is essential between authors and that, in particular in Latin America, it is necessary to find new forms of remuneration, especially in the digital environment where authors have to be more creative so that they can live off their works. He cited Public Lending Right (PLR) and the payment of royalties for digital uses as necessities, in addition to encouraging a culture of respect for authors’ rights in society.
You can watch the full discussion here: