In recent years, copyright issues have featured prominently on our national Carnival landscape. Topical debates have included: the unauthorized use of musical samples, masqueraders ability to post their photos to social media outlets and most recently the acquisition of appropriate licenses from representative organisations by event promoters and photographers. At the heart of these issues is an apparent lack of understanding of the copyright construct by potential rights users and some organisations which seem intent on maintaining this confusion through continued dissemination of misinformation.

A case in point which was reported in local newspapers involved the decision by the promoter of the recent SOAKA till Sunrise Breakfast Party to obtain performance licensing from the Trinidad and Tobago Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCO) as opposed to the Copyright (Music) Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT).While the promoter may have had his reasons for seeking clearance from the TTCO as opposed to COTT, it is important to consider the bundle of rights these organisations administer in relation to the proposed use these rights. Both organisations represent important music stakeholders- with COTT representing the mechanical rights (the right to copy or reproduce a song) and performance rights (the right to publicly perform a song) of songwriters and composers; while the TTCO undertakes a similar function in addition to representing live performers under neighbouring rights. Neighbouring rights exist in performances, sound recordings and broadcasts. Since many times the writer of a song may not necessarily be the person who performs the song in a recording, or live performance; it follows, that the rights that COTT represent are complements to those being administered by TTCO in some instances. Promoters will therefore require two sets of clearances- one from each organisation to legally use music.

There must be respect between the TTCO and COTT. These representatives ought to refrain from giving the public the impression that a license from one body is sufficient, if each organisation is duly authorised to represent its members. Civility and cooperation can only serve to improve overall strategic performance. Likewise, the perspective of the promoter can also be understood given COTT’s significant control of performance and mechanical rights as well as its virtual monopoly on reciprocal rights in Trinidad and Tobago, weighed against the promoter’s quest for cost efficiency. However, the manner in which the music is being used must be measured against the repertoire and bundle of rights represented by the various organisations when determining how licenses should be secured.