CARNIVAL TALKS: Richard Cornwall, right, CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCO) speaks to attorney Mervyn Mitchell, from left, Wendell Eversley and TTCO president Dr Vijay Ramlal Rai at the media conference yesterday at Capital Plaza, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

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'Ole mas' over money

Copyright organisation claims NCC owes millions in royalties

By Verdel Bishop

One day after a new format for the Carnival 2013 competitions has been announced by the National Carnival Commission (NCC), comes a claim that it owes millions in outstanding copyright royalties and accreditation to mas costume designers, mas men and other groups involved in "works of mas".

This was stated yesterday by president of the Trinidad and Tobago Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCO), Dr Vijay Ramlal Rai. 

At a media conference at Capital Plaza, Port of Spain, Rai gave NCC an ultimatum—meet with TTCO (which he said is authorised to collect royalties for Carnival arts), to discuss outstanding royalties and to discuss arrangements  for the licensing of media and other commercial entities to record, broadcast and use  the works of mas of producers, designers and performers or face the appropriate action.

Rai said NCC is not an authorised copyright collection body particularly as it relates to works of mas.

He said, "NCC has been collecting accreditation monies from journalists both internationally and locally and other media houses. Those monies are to be paid towards royalties for works of mas and other related areas. Since 2007 to now our members have not been paid. The membership of National Carnival Development Foundation (NCDF) which represents over 200 bands has not been receiving those funds.  It is illegal for NCC to collect fees indicating that it is for copyright protection. Our understanding is that NCC is not a copyright body. There is a committee called the Accreditation Committee at the NCC; we have been asking that TTCO be placed on that committee so that negotiations and possibly remunerations will be accredited accordingly."

Rai said NCC must be transparent in its operations. Rai added, "The problem is there is quite a bit of grey areas in NCC's operations, therefore we want everything that they do to be clear. If it means having the issue adjudicated in court so that the court makes a decision based on what governs the NCC, what governs the Copyright bodies and who is responsible for what, then let it be done there because we have been trying for years for NCC to pay and they are not paying. Year after year they are not paying for works of mas," Rai said.

Rai went on, "The TTCO is the only copyright collective management organisation in T&T with the legal competence to represent the copyright interests of producers, designers and performers of works of mas."

Newly-appointed NCC chairman, Allison Demas denied Rai's claims.

She said, "NCC has not been collecting any copyrights. There seem to be some misunderstanding where that is concerned because people don't know the difference between accreditation fees, appearance fees and copy right royalties. As far as I am informed the NCC has not collected any of these. If TTOC believes NCC has been collecting royalties they will have to prove their claim."

Chairman of the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) David Lopez declined to comment on the issue. 

Gerard Weekes, representative for top band leader Brian Mac Farlane, said neither the NCC nor the NCBA has paid royalty fees to the band for the last ten years. He said this is a result of mismanagement and lack of transparency. 

"We have not been paid royalty dues for quite a number of years. We have not received royalties for the band and also the king and the queen for the past ten years, which is unfair. Another issue is that I have seen photos of my costumes in magazines and there are no royalties coming from any of this. I raised the question many times with the NCBA and they never addressed the issue," Weekes said.

Dune Ali, member of the newly formed Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Bands Association (TTCBA) and mas maker, said he received a royalty cheque for $1,200 from the NCBA and since then nothing had been forthcoming. He said the issue is not with the NCC—the NCBA, he said, is where the problems lie. "The issue is not with the NCC, it's with the NCBA. The main problem is mismanagement of funds. People involved in the mas fraternity are not aware of what is being paid out. They don't have the slightest idea of what goes on. They are not educated and informed.  We see magazines with our pictures and costumes in it and nothing ever comes out from that. We see nothing from it. We belong to the NCBA and we should be advised but we are not being properly informed," Dune said

Former NCBA PRO and band leader of Trini Revellers mas band, Dave Cameron, said the public must be educated on areas of copyright. "The masses have to be educated on copyright. Copyright is new; copyright laws only came out in 1998 and a lot of people are not educated. The mas fraternity has to be educated," he said.

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