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Group claims mas rights from media

Friday, February 8 2013

Media houses are of the belief that because they paid the National Carnival Commission (NCC) for accreditation for Carnival coverage, that the payment covered copyright licensing. However, this is not the case. So said Trinidad and Tobago Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCO) CEO, Richard Cornwall, as he explained that the organisation had a mandate from its members to go after copyright infringement individuals or companies, including the media.

Cornwall pointed out that NCC was simply a promoter responsible for putting on a number of Carnival events. He said it was necessary for NCC to take out a blanket copyright license to cover all their events, and in addition, the users — persons or companies who benefit commercially from the events — also had to pay for a copyright licence. In a letter to TTCO, dated January 23, 2013, NCC attorney Dharmendra Punwasee noted that the accreditation did not cover licences.

The terms of the accreditation read: “Accredited persons who intend to use third parties’ proprietary rights in any video and/or still photograph (s) and/or audio production at any show and/or event promoted or organised by the NCC shall be responsible for ensuring that they have authorisation of these third parties, and for making proper arrangements with the Copyright Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago, and or the representative bodies, for the payment of rights and or royalties.”

Cornwall said the statement stands to reason that, if the NCC never collected royalties, they exposed all whom they issued accreditation to legal action. “You can not give people accreditation and then tell them to get the requisite licence. They are putting the cart before the horse,” said Cornwall.

The TTCO has filed a writ against the NCC for non-payment of royalties for the period 2007 to 2013. Speaking to reporters after an International Meeting of Carnival Arts Organisations at the Restaurant, National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Port-of-Spain yesterday, Mahindra Satram-Maharaj, chairman of the National Carnival Development Foundation (NCDF), said the organisation has had discussions with NCC regarding works of mas royalties for several years to no avail.

“From 2007 to 2012, as we speak, millions of dollars have been collected by the organisation (NCC) or agencies responsible for mas in Trinidad and Tobago and those monies have never been passed on to our members,” said Satram-Maharaj. He noted that NCDF represented 90 percent of bands based in Port-of-Spain, including Harts, Tribe, Island People, Yuma, Spice, as well as over 300 bands outside of the capital. He also stated that 97 percent of all mas bands, calculate a loss or break even position after Carnival.

Satram-Maharaj said between 2003 to 2006, the NCDF received royalties from the NCC, but that stopped in 2007 and never resumed. TTCO, he said, asked the NCC to repay $4 million for the last six years, and they would discuss royalties for 2013. NCC chairman Allison Demas declined to comment on the matter saying it was in the hands of the NCC’s lawyers.

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