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Pay $4m owed to our masmen

Copyright Organisation tells NCC, NCBA:

By Renuka Singh

The Trinidad and Tobago Copyright Organisation (TTCO) is now calling on both the National Carnival Commission (NCC) and National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) to pay up the more than $4 million owed to mas practitioners and has already sought legal advice on how to recover that money.

The copyright protection group said though the NCC has said it paid royalties to the mas men and women up to 2010, the practitioners have not received any money since 2006. At a Joint Select Committee meeting in November, it was stated that the NCBA negotiates its own copyright fees and has paid up to 2010.

The Copyright Organisation held a media conference yesterday at the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) office on Cornelio Street, Woodbrook, where its chief executive officer, Richard Cornwall, president Vijay Ramlal Rai and vice-president Wendell Eversley spoke out on the issue.

Rai claimed one of the main contentions of the TTCO was that while the money was being collected by the governing bodies, it was not being paid to the practitioners.

"We have an attorney-at-law as the chairman of the NCC who understands Intellectual Property and in her pronouncements and reading she is saying that they have not collected royalties. But when you read the accreditation guidelines and regulations, there is a big chunk of that which directly falls under copyright collection," Rai said.

"Under the terminology of accreditation, it is also collecting copyright. It is going to be one of our main points in the courts if it reaches there," he said.

"To our knowledge and understanding as guided by our client, the NCDF (National Carnival Development Foundation), which represents the large bands in Trinidad, to date no copyright fees have been paid after 2006," said Cornwall, adding that someone had to account for 2007-2012.

"The NCDF has mandated us to collect on their behalf," he said, adding that with TTCO leading this charge, other members of the mas fraternity have asked the group to collect royalties on their behalf.

He said the NCC has displayed "general disrespect" over the years regarding the "unique area of copyright" that falls under Works of Mas.

"The NCC was written to yet again on December 5, 2012...to date there has been no response.

"We have a responsibility to make sure we take certain legal positions," said Cornwall, adding that he was restricted from saying too much without legal direction.

"But rest assured that we are pursuing the matter."

The NCBA also came under fire for the lack of information pertaining to the copyrights of costumes.

Speaking in his private capacity, Eversley called for the removal of NCBA head David Lopez.

"We need to look carefully and see where Carnival is headed in 2013. We represent the mas fraternity and the mas fraternity is calling on us to do their homework where royalty is concerned," he said.

In response to the issue, NCC head Allison Demas would only say the matter was in the hands of its attorney.

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