foba vs cott

This little nugget of news passed quietly last week while I was at a seminar on copyright in the Carnival industry—I have not seen this reported in the newspapers, only this release as a display ad—and I can’t help but be amused at the ironic timing. As I understand this, Madam Justice Charmaine Pemberton “discontinued” the case brought by the Copyright Music Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT) against Fatima Old Boys’ Association (FOBA) for “non payment of ‘required’ fee” (license fee for live event) in favour of FOBA with costs. The release states that “the discontinuation of this matter can be seen as a victory for all promoters.” Well look thing!

My buddy Malcolm Spence, an IP expert regionally, had stated on my Facebook page on this issue when it first reared it head back in February this year, “Let the law and the market take its course.” Well I guess it did. The market said pay a lower cost license fee to The Trinidad and Tobago Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCO) as a registered collective management organisation (CMO), and the law, if this is not appealed, says Fatima can do just that! Josh Rudder, COTT CEO, at the beginning of this issue is reported in the press as stating, “We don’t intend to necessarily stop an event because nobody wins.” That was the problem, in my eyes, that created confusion. I said at that time that the consequence of COTT’s reversal of the recent actions against other promoters in the season is “a precedent [that] has been set which can be repeated by any promoter.” Now, I wish to read/see the judgment, and also ask COTT or Josh if an appeal is near. This shit have to stop! Laws are made for everybody, not only lawyers to understand. Solutions have to come about to deal with this. Whither the IPO?

While the Intellectual Property Office of Trinidad and Tobago (IPO) is not a mediation body, and states that “if disputes arise between persons and CMOs regarding licensing, the matter can be referred to the Court,” the vaguely drafted document “Addressing Collective Management Issues” citing the history of the ongoing efforts of the IPO to resolve the problems between the CMOs does not add clarity. The document, and subsequent “inaction” were criticised at the recent seminar by CMO persons there. We have continuing problems since Carnival that don’t augur well if not for proactive and decisive action backed by political will (not only by politicians but by stakeholders.)

Spence also commented at Carnival on this issue: “If as a result of judicial interpretation the laws are found not to be appropriate we have a parliamentary procedure to amend them.” After last week’s seminar on copyright, and the stated and learned opinion by Sen. Anthony D. Vieira on certain deficiencies in the law, I say it’s time we revisit the Copyright Act in line with the country’s goal of diversifying the economy with creative industries and within the context of the current digital age, as well as the big picture issue of fixing this continued confusion which can create apathy and corruption.

© 2014, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.


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