Inshan Ishmael sues Cro Cro, COTT over calypso
CAN a calypso be deemed defamatory?
This is the question a High Court judge will have to answer as businessman Inshan Ishmael has made good on his promise to take veteran calypsonian Weston “Cro Cro” Rawlins to court over his 2023 calypso Another Sat is Outside Again.
On Friday, Ishmael’s attorney Richard Jaggasar filed the defamation claim in the High Court.
Ishmael has also named the Copyright Organisation of TT (COTT) as a defendant.
Newsday was told the case has been assigned to Justice Frank Seepersad.
In the lawsuit, Ishmael claims the calypso, performed on February 5, directly named and defamed him.
“As a result of the lyrics of the song the claimant is now viewed as a criminal, a racist and a thief.
“The lyrics of the song directly name, identify and attack the claimant; and encourage others to attack the claimant verbally (and) physically and financially abstain from his businesses.”
It also alleges that Rawlins performed the song with COTT’s permission.
The lawsuit said the song reached thousands of people, who shared a video of the performance which was posted on YouTube and other platforms.
“The first defendant has added insult to injury and publicly called the claimant ‘sick in his head,’ ‘disrespectful,’ and a racist.
“Despite the threat of legal action, the first defendant has said he will continue to perform the song. For that reason, aggravated damages are claimed,” the lawsuit says.
Ishmael’s claim gave an account of his business dealings and the various community awards he has received for his social activism.
“The defamatory song was performed by the first defendant who has admitted to its contents and meaning…Following the performance of the defamatory song it was a widely accepted fact that the song lyrics referred to the claimant. It shall be contended at trial by the claimant that the ordinary man observing the song naturally draws the conclusion that the song refers to the claimant.”
The lawsuit says the media called Ishmael for a comment on the song and Rawlins, who, the claim alleges, said the song “refers plainly to the claimant.” It also said Rawlins was aware of the pre-litigation correspondence, sent on February 13, and had even advertised a show “intended to serve as his reply to the pre-action protocol letter.”
It quoted a newspaper article in which Rawlins claimed he sang about someone named “Imchan Imchelle.”
However, the lawsuit says the “defamatory song” does not have the name Imshan or Inshan but repeatedly refers to an “Ishmael” whom the public believes to be the businessman.
“In any event and for the removal of doubt the public continued to take the defamatory song as referring to the claimant.
“In fact, members of the public created memes of the claimant titling him as Imchan Imchelle.”
It also said an advertisement for an event hosted by Rawlins on March 16, at the Naparima Bowl in San Fernando and Goverment Campus plaza in Port of Spain about the legal action was in “mockery of the judicial system,” while ignoring the pre-action letter. It alleged the advertisement was meant to publicly reply to the letter and served as a fundraiser to pay legal fees.
“It is also noted that the advertisement says ‘Cro-Cro will have his lawyers on standby.’
“This is further insult to the judicial system since these lawyers have not advised the first defendant to respond to the pre-action protocol letter which is in breach of the practice directions on pre-action protocol correspondence.”
The claim against COTT alleges the organisation was told on February 27 of the concern that Rawlins’s song was considered defamatory.
It says COTT had a duty to issue a statement or take action in the matter, yet "did nothing,” although: “Their duties also include the duty to protect the rights of all citizens including the right of the claimant not to be defamed.”
It said as the copyright body, it owned the words to the song and “knew or ought to have known by their own assessment that the song was defamatory and did not discontinue the permission to perform same or prevent it from being broadcast.
“Even to date, they have opted to take no action.”
"Inshan Ishmael sues Cro Cro, COTT over calypso"