Okanagan Nation Alliance expected to take over copyright of ‘Ogopogo’

An Ogopogo statue in Kelowna. Global News

Part of the Ogopogo story will likely be returned this week to where the mythical creature began.

The City of Vernon, B.C., is expected to transfer copyright to the Okanagan Nation Alliance on Tuesday, though its intentions to do so were laid out months earlier, sparking a conversation that spanned the globe.

“Early in 2021, council directed (city) administration to assign the copyright in the unpublished literary and artistic work entitled Ogopogo to the Okanagan Nation Alliance,” reads a report to council to be tabled Tuesday, Oct. 12.

“Initially thought to be a straightforward assignment, the path soon became quite convoluted, including a trademark challenge from a third party, challenges to the original assignment of 1956, a wide-sweeping story in the British news service The Guardian, and numerous COVID and emergency delays. “

Click to play video: 'Ogopogo copyright changing hands'
Ogopogo copyright changing hands

The city’s solicitor has now “completed the journey”  and city staff are asking council members to authorize, by resolution, the Copyright Assignment Agreement between the City of Vernon and the Okanagan Nation Alliance.

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The city will “assign and transfer to the Okanagan Nation Alliance all copyright, title, interest, and property in the work, together with the right and title to any derivative works arising in any way from the work, and any trademark rights arising from the commercial or non-commercial use of the foregoing copyrighted protected works or derivates thereof and any goodwill related thereto.”

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The process has been given a $1 value, though it’s worth much more than the price tag may imply.

The city had held an Ogopogo copyright since 1956 when it was donated by Arthur Gilbert Seabrook, He took out the copyright in 1952, according to his obituary. Seabrook gained copyright as a marketing/promotion effort for the radio stations he was involved in.

“This, much to the chagrin of Kelowna and other Okanagan cities,” read the 2010 obituary published online.  “Eventually, the rights to use Ogopogo were offered to the City of Vernon … where they basically remained dormant.”

In the years that have passed, the city is said to have only twice given permission to use the Ogopogo copyright, for no monetary returns, but its dominion over the name and image was largely unknown until recently, when an author had to go to council for permission to use the name in a book he was writing.

Click to play video: 'Bigfoot or moose: experts analyze tracks left behind'
Bigfoot or moose: experts analyze tracks left behind

Don Levers self-published Ogopogo: The Misunderstood Lake Monster in 1985 and it sold more than 25,000 copies. He went to Vernon with plans for a sequel, which required permission from council members. When the issue was raised, and publicized, however, Levers’ book, which is scheduled to be released in 2022, took a back seat to a different story.

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Local First Nations were shocked that a concept born from Syilx culture had been in the possession of the city.

Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis told Global News in March that while ‘Ogopogo’ has no meaning in his language, the story does.

“The actual name of what’s in the lake is N’ha-a-itk,” Louis said.

Click to play video: 'Possible Ogopogo sighting in Vernon'
Possible Ogopogo sighting in Vernon

“Even if you change the name, it is still the same story that is behind it … The Syilx people are the only ones who can actually possess and own that name or that story since it originates from nowhere else but us.”

Louis said there are teachings attached to the story of N’ha-a-itk.

“To use it in any other context is like going to a Bible and suddenly (saying), ‘Well, I’m going to change the story and sell it,’” Louis said.

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“It’s cultural appropriation in its finest form when you do such things without the permission of the owners.”

At the time, Louis indicated he was pleased that the name was going to be back with the Syilx people.

– with files from Megan Turcato

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