President of the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) David Lopez is calling on authorities to investigate claims made by the TT Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCO) regarding works of mas licencing.
In an official letter circulated to event promoters, TTCO stated that it is "the sole administrator of Neighbouring Rights and Works of Mas" and required promoters "to secure a copyright/the relevant licence from the TTCO before making any application for licence to promote any fete/events."
Responding to that claim, Lopez said that it is misleading, if not false, for TTCO to assert that if promoters get a licence from TTCO they are covered in respect of all works of mas.
“TTCO can only make claims or issue licences for the producers, band leaders and designers who have agreements with them,” Lopez said. “It is misleading for them to claim or suggest that they represent all works of mas.”
When Sunday Newsday spoke to TTCO president Dr Vijay Ramlal to clarify the matter of works of mas licences in the official letter, Ramlal stated that TTCO was the only administrator of these licences and any individual seeking licences for works of mas must do so through the TTCO.
However, Lopez said that if the TTCO is issuing licences or collecting money in NCBA’s name or on behalf of their producers, band leaders, and designers, that is being done without NCBA’s knowledge and authorisation.
“The TTCO has no authority to make demands, threaten, collect money or issue licences for or on behalf of the NCBA and our members,” Lopez said. “If they take money in our name or on behalf of our members, unless those funds are remitted to the owners, that money would have been obtained under false pretences.”
Justyn Richardson-King, legal officer of the NCBA, further explained that if licences need to be obtained from NCBA members, promoters, event hosts and members of the public must check directly with the NCBA which will direct them to the relevant producer.
“The NCBA wishes to disassociate itself from TTCO as TTCO cannot issue permissions or licences for or on behalf of any of our members in respect of works of mas,” Richardson-King said.
The concept of works of mas was brought to Parliament by the NCBA to protect the producers of works of mas from having their creations replicated, plagiarized or otherwise exploited without authorization.
According to the Copyright Act, a work of mas must be original, creative and artistic in the form of an image or adornment and can be accompanied by words, music, dancing or other such works. Works of mas, such as Peter Minshall’s Saga Boy and Geraldo Vieira Sr’s Bachac Pushing Ganja, are protected as derivative works. Under the act, the producer/ bandleader as owner of the work has the exclusive right to prevent their creative masterpieces from unauthorised exploitation.
Regarding what qualified as works of mas, Ramlal explained that works of mas encompassed masquerader costumes, mentioning costumes in bands such as Bliss and Yuma, and the kings and queens.
Citing the Copyright Act, however, Richardson-King said that generic masquerader costumes of the beads and bikini variety and traditional mas would not ordinarily be protected as works of mas in their own right as protected works of mas must be original, creative and artistic.
“The NCBA recognises the vital role played by CMOs but the NCBA cannot stay silent when they see something wrong taking place in open view,” Lopez said. “I wonder if TTCO is trying to deceive the public and, if so, this needs to be examined by law enforcement.”
Sunday Newsday made several calls to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi for comment on the matter, including copyright law and works of mas licencing, but efforts were unsuccessful.