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Sunday 24 March 2019
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Commentary

Carnival’s copyright commess continues

Mark Lyndersay
Mark Lyndersay

BitDepth#1185

LAST WEEK, Dr Vijay Ramlal of the TT Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCO), supported by TT Carnival Bandleaders Association president Gerard Weekes, promised enforcement of punishments for copyright transgressions during Carnival 2019 that can run as high as ten years imprisonment or a $250,000 fine.

A 2016 effort to make legal claims to past fees due for works of mas copyright was denied in court (http://ow.ly/jik230nIBsc).

Weekes characterised mas men as being “disenfranchised” and complained that “mas practitioners have not benefitted” from the reproduction of their creative work.

This recurring claim of copyright royalties is limited to works of mas.

A “work of mas” is defined in the TT Copyright Act Chapter 82:80.

“Work of mas” is an original production intended to be performed by a person or a group of persons in which an artistic work in the form of an adornment or image presented by the person or persons is the primary element of the production, and in which such adornment or image may be accompanied by words, music, choreography or other works, regardless of whether the production is intended to be performed on stage, platform, street or other venue.

At a recent copyright talk (http://ow.ly/6zFi30nKlj6), the IP Office’s Nicholas Gayahpersad noted that such a work is not any one of those things, it is a specific incarnation of those elements.

The Original Whipmasters’ very specific stage performances are likely to be eligible for protection.

The average masquerader with a leg cocked up in the air wearing, in the main, a broad grin, is not.

Dr Emir Crowne has written about the issue (http://ow.ly/rQfg30nJkpn) from a copyright scholar’s perspective and finds need for more oversight.

“Government regulations are needed to deal with an unaccountable CMO regime. A regime keen on holding others to account, with little internal self-governance,” he wrote in Newsday this week.

In a learned post on this subject (http://ow.ly/uHwk30nHSet), the IP Office notes that “if the photograph is for commercial purposes and is taken along the Carnival venue, the person must be accredited.”

If you ask the people dispensing these badges, they will say the fee is for “copyright,” but rights are not a hand of fig, they are a series of licences granted for specific use for a specific time of a specifically identified creation.

What Ramlal describes as a royalty is actually a penalty levied in advance in the expectation that you will make money from your photos and with no reference to any practical reality.

Photographer Maria Nunes told me after a TTCO assessment of $5,000 in fees, “It was not clear to me what paying that fee would entitle me to in respect of my reproduction rights. There was also no schedule of fees in the office that I could refer to. I found it all arbitrary and not transparent.”

The NCC has always been clear that their pass gives you access to the venue and nothing more, not even a chair, as it turns out.

Paying for undetermined, unsupportable rights in advance of actual use is a peculiarly Carnivalesque abomination that continues because we allow it to.

It exists because rights holders are too lazy or uninformed to create a proper licensing regime that would fairly tax actual commercial users and reward legitimate rights holders.

The TTCO, Crowne wrote, “can only administer and protect works of mas within their repertoire. In other words, if the creator of a work of mas has not contracted with the TTCO to enforce their rights, then the TTCO has no claim or jurisdiction to enforce the rights in that work of mas. The CMO regime is entirely voluntary.”

Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com. An expanded version of this column can be found there

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