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No way to promote our Carnival

A recentarticle in one of the T&T newspapers warns people not to post pictures of Carnival on their Facebook pages. An individual purporting to be the CEO of a new copyright organisation which in turn claims to represent some Carnival bandleaders apparently is claiming that some unspecified third party might steal pictures from people's Facebook pages and use them "commercially". He then claims the persons whose image were stolen could be liable for the commercial use of the images because they posted them on Facebook. Talk about blaming the victims!

I can't speak for T&T, but in the US, if any lawyer tried to make any such claim, he would be laughed out of the courthouse. Obviously, it is the person who stole the images and used them commercially who would be potentially liable and might be able to be sued, if, in fact, the pictures were used "commercially" (which in the US and most of the world, has a very narrow meaning – advertising.)

I also find this very strange because if I buy a Hilfiger outfit and a pair of Nike athletic shoes, both protected internationally by intellectual property laws, and then wear them in an advertising shoot, neither of the clothing manufacturers would have any claim against their use in the resulting images.

Therefore if you purchase a mas costume and then get your friend to take a picture of you wearing it and post the picture on Facebook, or anywhere else, I don't see how the mas maker could take action against you, unless he made you sign a document prohibiting such action at the time the costume was sold. In any event, taking legal action, or even threatening to take legal action against your loyal customers is very bad business.

I have been coming to Carnival from overseas for over 20 years. Every year I have taken many photographs of all aspects of Carnival. These pictures went into albums which I showed to my friends and co-workers. I attempted to get copies of the pictures back to the people or band in the pictures as a token of my appreciation.

Some years ago, I started obtaining NCC press passes to allow me to obtain better quality images. With the advent of digital photography, I decided to set up a personal web page where I posted the pictures, and told everyone where they could view the images, rather than me making printed copies.

For some years now the NCC has required people obtaining press passes to get the approval of the "interest groups", and pay any "copyright" fees they might require, before the NCC would issue the pass. The specified mas organisation, the NCBA, collected such a fee and issued, in recent years, a "licence" for the "use" of the images.

The fees charged by the NCBA and TUCO have increased exponentially in recent years. After feeling ripped off last year, I decided that this year I would only get a press pass to photograph pan events (still reasonably priced). It is well that I did, because I am told by other photographers that the fees multiplied several times again this year. There is no way I can afford to pay such fees. Where I used to post pictures of mas and calypso on my website, I will post a statement why there are no pictures from this year.

Now I read in another article that this same "copyright organisation" is trying to collect what it claims are previously due fees from the NCC and its licencees. The article further states that the NCC has provided this organisation with the personal identifying information of those who obtained press credentials from them over the past years, including, obviously, me.

In many states of the US and in all of Europe, this would be a violation of law. There are strict conditions on which personal identifying information may be released to others, in part to prevent this type of potential harassment and in part to prevent identity theft. I now wonder if I am going to be harassed or even sued by this "organisation" for what is perfectly legal non-commercial use of my images.

This is no way to promote T&T and Carnival to the rest of the world.

John Schmidt

via e-mail

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