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Carnival copyright war brews

By Jada Loutoo Friday, February 14 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Dancing devils: A dancing band of devils moves menacingly on stage at Live at the Hyatt show at the hotel in Port-of-Spain on Wednesday evening. ...
Dancing devils: A dancing band of devils moves menacingly on stage at Live at the Hyatt show at the hotel in Port-of-Spain on Wednesday evening. ...

The TT Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCO) is accusing the National Carnival Commission (NCC) of owing it millions of dollars as copyright royalties for three years.

In a letter to NCC chairman Allison Demas, attorney Asha Watkins-Montserin on behalf of TTCO’s chief executive Richard Cornwall claimed his organisation was owed in excess of $1 million for each of the three years 2009 to 2012.

In the letter, dated January 28, Watkins-Montserin informed NCC that the TTCO’s core business included the licensing of copyright of authors, composers, live performers and works of mas; the collection of royalties and the payment under the Copyright Act.

Watkins-Montserin said the TTCO was authorised by the National Carnival Development Foundation (NCDF), which represents several Carnival bands, to act on behalf of its members in all copyright related matters, including the collection of all outstanding royalties. The attorney, in the pre-action protocol letter, said over the period 2003 to 2006, royalty payments were made to the NCDF by NCC for Carnival presentations by NCDF member bands.

“However, for the period 2007-2013 inclusive and continuing the copyright and royalty payments due to the NCDF have not been paid by the NCC nor any other body on its behalf,” Watkins- Montserin said.

“Over the said period the NCC has collected accreditation/royalty/performance fees on behalf of all participants at the Port-of-Spain Carnival, ninety (90%) of whom are NCDF members,” the attorney further noted.

Watkins-Montserin, who along with Keith Scotland are legal advisers to the TTCO, said despite the NCC having collected said sums purported to be royalties of the said works of mas no payments have been forthcoming to the TTCO.

“The NCC is not entitled to the said sums in its own capacity and the said sums collected have been collected for and on behalf of the TTCO who represents the members of the NCDF and others in this regard,” Watkins-Montserin contended.

The TTCO’s attorney reminded NCC that it has repeatedly corresponded with the mas body yet no response has been forthcoming.

The NCC was given seven days to pay all outstanding sums owing to the TTCO, failing which the copyright body has threatened to commence litigation to recover the royalty payments.

In response to the pre-action letter, the NCC’s attorney Dharmendra Punwasee said the Carnival body was unable to respond to the claims made by the TTCO.

The NCC has asked for a list of the bandleaders and “artisans involved in the design creation, manufacture and performer” that TTCO represents; a copy of the instrument by which TTCO was appointed to represent those who they claim had assigned their rights to the copyright body; full particulars of the alleged breaches and a breakdown of the sum of $1 million which is claimed as copyright royalties for the years 2009 to 2012.

“The NCC has and continues to work with those involved in the staging and promotion of Carnival in an ongoing effort to develop and promote the festival,” the attorney said. NCC has also asked that a meeting be held with the two parties to discuss the issue and claims made by the TTCO.

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