Copyright Organisation of TT (COTT) president John Arnold said the organisation does not shut down events. He was speaking on Tuesday at a media conference held at COTT, Port of Spain.
The press conference was called to respond to a letter sent by the TT Promoters Association (TTPA) to COTT and two other collective management organisations (CMOs) – Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCO) and Awesome Copyright of TT, requesting various information from the organisations.
TTPA advocate Paige deLeon, at a media conference last week, said there is no standard, there is a public squabble amongst the CMOs, and the promoters are always told that if they do not do certain things they would shut down their events.
Arnold, on Tuesday, said the letter was not a pre-action protocol letter but a lawyer's letter asking for clarity in a number of areas including the list of the rights, list of members, the more popular songs COTT covers and information on payments and distribution to its members. He added, there was no "open warfare" with TTCO but some things are not clear.
"I just want to make it clear that in context of tariffs and fees it's not a grocery."
He stressed that the way copyright works, you have to have a licence from the CMO that represents the music you propose to use. In the case of COTT, they represent the majority of composers – more than 3,700, and have 90 per cent of the Carnival hits including Machel Montano, Nailah Blackman and Aaron (Voice) St Louis. He said fees and tariffs are based on partnerships with international agencies and are benchmarked.
"They are not arbitrarily done."
Arnold recalled COTT met with TTPA in January 2019 about getting better rates for the events industry and COTT was pleased to form an alliance. He said COTT is transparent and accountable and will provide all requested information to TTPA this week.
"This is not a big issue. There is no war with the TTCO."
He added that having multiple CMOs in TT is causing some confusion which can lead to conflict. He explained that a competing CMO may say if COTT is charging $4,000 they will charge $2,000, but he stressed promoters have to have the licence for the music. He recalled he had to personally phone a major artiste and inform them that there was no licence for the event he would be performing at.
Arnold said there is a need to have CMO regulations and a regulatory framework as the playing field is not fair, and this was being looked at from a Caribbean basis by the World Intellectual Property Organisation. He said there had been several attempts over the years for CMOs to collaborate, including a meeting he had with a CMO head, but COTT is not convinced due diligence is practised by all CMOs.
COTT CEO Ayanna Belgrave-Lewis said there are no agreements between CMOs, so one CMO cannot collect on behalf of another, and if there is no licence in place no money will go to the creator. On what happens with events that are in breach, she reported that COTT acts after the fact. She explained officials have visited events and recorded them and this can be used as part of a civil or criminal action, the latter with a fine of $250,000 and ten years in prison. She reported that of the 247 events this Carnival, 196 (or almost 80 per cent) have paid, 44 have received invoices but have not paid, and 11 took licences from another CMO.
"We will treat with them after the Carnival season."
Arnold said COTT currently has one case before the courts, but generally COTT tries to avoid going to court as it is an extensive process.