By JADA LOUTOO and JULIEN NEAVES Saturday, February 22 2014
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King Stefan: Stefan Camejo, with help from a dancer, performs his winning song "Soca Plane" to cop the Primary Schools Soca Monarch crown at Queen's P...
THE FETES are on!
This is the general consensus of the promoters of seven fetes who were all served with pre-action protocol letters from the Copyright Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT) threatening to pull the plug on their respective events unless copyright and licence fees were paid to the copyright body.
On Thursday, COTT’s attorney Dave McKenzie sent legal letters to organisers of the seven fetes, one of which was expected to take place last night as well as others to be held today and tomorrow, while two are expected to be held on Carnival Sunday.
The seven events include, Misty Ridge’s Xcite, held last night at the Jean Pierre Complex; the same promoter’s premium all inclusive event at the Trinidad Hilton on tomorrow; Fatima’s RE-BOOT today at the college; this morning’s “Wanted Ultimate Cooler Experience” at the Centre of Excellence; SOCA by the RANCH, also todays at Wilson Ranch in Arima; as well as Carnival Sunday’s Shades Breakfast party at Soledad Estate and Double Up breakfast party, also on Carnival Sunday, on Ariapita Avenue.
COTT threatened to approach the courts to seek injunctions to stop the various events.
But in a move of defiance, the fete promoters, all of whom say they will not be bullied by COTT, said they have paid the requisite licence fees to the other local copyright body, TT Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCO).
One promoter, in protest of the move by COTT, has come up with a novel marketing strategy for his event. Promoters of the “Wanted Edition Ultimate Cooler Experience”, which was held this morning at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya, has “in protest of the malicious and vindictive thuggery” of COTT has introduced a ticket special for prospective patrons who will now be able to purchase two tickets for the fete and get a third free.
TRM Productions, which is hosting the Wanted fete, has called the offer the “COTT-UP special”.
TRM Productions obtained its licences from the TTCO. Sean Langton, promoter of the Double Up fete breakfast party on Carnival Sunday at Ariapita Avenue, said “the whole situation has taken us quite by surprise”. “We believe that we are adhering to the current legislation, as issued by a letter from the Ministry of Legal Affairs, that both organisations (COTT and TTCO) are licenced under their laws and you have a choice,” he said. He said the event will “most definitely” go on as scheduled. He recalled in 2012 they did their licence with COTT and in 2013 with TTCO “on neither of those occasions we had problems so I don’t see why we should be having a problem this year”. Langton said the issue is due to problems between the two organisations “and I think that the promoters are not the people who should be held to ransom for issues of this nature”. He noted that the organisers have been in contact with their attorney and awaiting their guidance on the matter. Attorney for promoters of the Fatima Old Boys’ Association (FOBA), Keith Scotland, in a reply to COTT, told the copyright agency they made a “cardinal error” when they issued his client a pre-action protocol letter.
“At no time whatsoever has our client infringed any copyright laws or in fact, any laws in Trinidad and Tobago whatsoever,” Scotland wrote.
He said the FOBA “vehemently denied” the allegation of copyright infringement alleged by COTT.
Scotland said the promoters of the RE-BOOT event had applied for and obtained from TTCO the requisite performance licences.
He said there was no legal requirement in the Copyright Act mandating his client to specifically obtain licenses solely from COTT.
Scotland, who also represents Misty Ridge, accused COTT of discourtesy for issuing the pre- action letter, dated February 13, via email on February 20.
He also denied that Misty Ridge was guilty of infringing any copyright laws. Scotland again said his client obtained licences from TTCO, much like the other promoters who were sent pre-action protocol letters from COTT’s lawyers. Scotland also noted Misty Ridge would also be applying for its licences for the Shades Breakfast party, also from the TTCO, as it was entitled to do.
And while the battle rages between the two copyright agencies over which is responsible for the collection of licencing fees, the TTCO’s president, Vijay Ramlal, reminded that in accordance to best practise and international standards, a copyright management organisation (CMO) can issue a licence even though a person or persons are not a member of that organisation.
He said it was the responsibility of that body to seek and find the person or organisation who the benefits should have been paid.
TTCO’s chief executive Richard Cornwall said the organisation was saddened by COTT’s move, and said his body stood by its clients and condemned any action leveled against them as far as challenging the copyright licences they have obtained from the TTCO for their events. COTT, however, remains adamant that it was simply doing its job to collect royalties on behalf of their members.
The organisation has indicated that it represents, among others, soca artistes Machel Montano, Ian Alvarez also known as “Bunji Garlin”, Fay-Ann Lyons, Patrice Roberts, Darryl Newton Henry also known as “Farmer Nappy” and Kerwin Dubois; most of whom are scheduled to perform at the various fetes. COTT said that not only were the performers members of COTT but also the composers and producers of the songs they perform were also members. COTT’s position is that section 28(2) of the Copyright Act 1997, which states that “an assignment of copyright or neighbouring rights is not effective unless it is in writing and signed by or on behalf of the assignor”, gives them the duty and exclusive right to protect the interest of its members.
COTT also reminded that the owners of the venues where the various fetes are to be held can also be liable for infringement under the Copyright Act.