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Sunday 24 March 2019
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Commentary

Carnival copyright concerns

The TT Photographic Society

Part 1

THIS YEAR, as part of the Carnival accreditation process, the National Carnival Commission (NCC) has introduced a requirement that photographers go to the TT Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCO) for an assessment of upfront licence fees for photography in relation to the intellectual property rights of producers of “works of mas.” The NCC accreditation office said the TTCO is part of the process now because the TT Carnival Bandleaders Association (TTCBA) has come to an arrangement with the TTCO.

This new requirement has raised a number of concerns for the TT Photographic Society. As a registered non-profit organisation representing 450 photographers, who are all creators in their own right, it is our responsibility to ensure that the right of our members to practise their art is respected and protected, and to defend the right of photographers to be treated in a fair manner.

The society considers three key issues to be in urgent need of attention: 1 clarification regarding the rights of all creators under our copyright laws; 2) review of the policies and processes which determine accredited access to facilities; and 3) a fair system of fee assessment.

The pressing issue that the society is raising at this time is whether any photographer can legitimately be required to pay an upfront “blanket licence” fee to the TTCO to cover the possibility that they might use images taken during Carnival at some unknown time in the future for what the TTCO broadly, and unfairly, deems commercial purposes.

It is not that we object to the principle of a proper system for licensing the use of images, but rather that we question the TTCO’s arbitrary methodology for determining the fee.

We are also asking why there was not proper consultation well in advance of Carnival so that all the stakeholders involved could have contributed to arriving at a fair accreditation system.

We are also concerned that it seems that photographers are being assessed in the same manner as promoters of parties who use copyrighted music. This is a flawed approach when it comes to photography.

In new procedures introduced this year, a photographer is required to fill out a “Data Collection” form which the TTCO is using to determine whether it will issue a “blanket licence” or “special licence.”

Two members of the society explained to Dr Vijay Ramlal, president of the TTCO, that there was no way of knowing in advance where or when photographs they took might be used in publications, if at all.

Dr Ramlal’s position was that if a photographer is unable to specify in advance where the photographs will be used, a “blanket licence” is issued by the TTCO to cover the possibility that they might be used for commercial purposes.

One of these two photographers was assessed $5,000 for a licence fee to take photographs over Carnival (which she queried and has not paid) and four days later the other was assessed $600 for the same type of “blanket licence” after putting forward persuasive arguments.

No licence agreement was shown to either photographer.

There was also no schedule of fees in the TTCO office at the Queen’s Park Savannah to which they could refer in order to understand how the licence assessments are being arrived at.

The society has written to the TTCO asking for the terms and conditions and the scale of tariffs being used to calculate licences but has not yet received a response.

Clarification is also needed on whether the new TTCO “blanket licences” for photography apply to NCC competition venues only.

If a photographer does not intend to go to any Carnival competition venues and therefore does not obtain NCC media accreditation, is that photographer free under the laws of TT to take photographs in public streets without fear of any action being taken against him or her by the TTCO?

Another central concern of the society is the TTCO’s broad categorisation of “commercial use” to include use of photography for editorial purposes in its determination of licences. Dr Ramlal made it clear that he considers magazine editorial photography commercial, on the basis that photographers get paid for the use of their image as supporting content for articles.

This view is completely at odds with locally and globally established definitions of editorial content and more in-depth discussion of this issue will be explored in Part 2 of this article.

Consideration is also not being given to the invaluable role and contribution of photographers in the promotion and visibility of Carnival. Indeed, what are the implications for the future success of Carnival if photographic coverage declines in the face of unfair measures?

We wish to make it very clear therefore that the society does not have any objection to paying for accreditation to photograph Carnival. What we are objecting to is arbitrary measures, a lack of transparency and inconsistencies from one year to the next in how accreditation is handled.

Part 2 tomorrow

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