Piracy is a crime. Those who participate in it are criminals
no less than the drug traffickers, murderers and perpetrators
of more commonly accepted offences.
Those who purchase pirated material act as accessories, aiding
and abetting a criminal act.
The laws of T&T make provision for a minimum charge of
$100,000 or ten years imprisonment for the illegal copying
and distribution of copyrighted works.
It is not a victimless crime either, as in the end, a countrys
creativity pays the price when artistes refuse to produce
new works or relocate to jurisdictions that offer a greater
degree of protection and reward for creativity. Economies
consequently, will also be affected.
Piracy is an international scourge. The power of the defence
against it lies in the collaborative effort of governments,
the protective services, the judiciary, Customs and consumers
who drive demand.
While it is a legal issue in T&T, the agencies involved
in collective management (The Copyright Organisation of T&TCott)
and the T&T Copyright OrganisationTTCO) continue
to carry the burden of those they represent.
Recently, an initiative on the part of the TTCO geared toward
selling a licence to pirates that will allow them (pirates)
to sell copyrighted music came in for much discussion
by members of the creative industry.
Dr Vijay Ramlal, president of the TTCO, in defence of his
organisations enterprise, said that those artistes he
represents are in total agreement with the licensing
of pirates to sell their music, and it is on that basis
that the TTCO is moving ahead with its plans.
This announcement followed swiftly on Shadows revelation
that he was not recording works for Carnival 2005, joining
the likes of David Rudder and Ella Andall whom, to a large
extent, had taken away their creativity from our festival
in subsequent years.
Except in this instance, Ramlal prefers to refer to the pirates
as salesmen and entrepreneurs whom
he says, are not averse to plying their trade legally
if they are given the opportunity.
The TTCO represents approximately 1,500 musical works, mostly
local and comprising mainly chutney and gospel. Cott represents
over 15 million works which includes local and international
repertoire of all genres.
It is no extraordinary feat, though, that TTCO can have its
members support for initiative as a solution to the issue
of piracy. There is a view that because of the lack of airplay
for local music, the pirates are in fact doing the artistes
a service. Some artistes have voiced that they feel proud
that pirates deem their work to be sufficiently valuable
to form part of illegal compilations.
The reality is that these are in the minority and normally
the demand for their work is at the lower end.
Annabelle Davis, attorney for TTCO says that the idea offers
support to young artistes of all genres who have their music
and are not given airplay.
Some, however, view the idea of licensing a pirate as the
type of enthusiasm that brings grief, a level of corruption
that mocks justice and in essence makes anyone who engages
in creativity a victim of a crime that acts against the virtue
of hard work and financial investments.
ACP Winston Cooper
and abetting is what ACP Winston Cooper says.
In an immediate response Cooper said, So long as Vijay
Ramlal is certain that his actions do not encourage the pirates
to continue prostituting the works of creators and producers;
so long as his actions would not compromise the integrity
of the law and its intention, then he is in his right.
However, he says that if in fact Ramlals actions contravene
the law, the police would deal with the matter accordingly.
Cooper expressed doubts that this arrangement is in
tangent with the tenets of the Copyright Act of T&T.
Senator Danny Montano
Legal Affairs Minister Danny Montano responded: Ill
have none of that; thats my comment on that matter.
Montano conceded that TTCO, in fact, can give a licence
based on the works of the artistes they represent once they
have the consent of the artistes but that must be made
clear to the pirates.
When asked of his view about the granting of a licence to
an illegal operation Montano said, A pirate is a pirate,
and agreed with my suggestion that an illegal activity cannot
be legitimised with a licence.
Nicholas Lue Sue, technical information specialist of the
IPO, Ministry of Legal Affairs said that while TTCO can give
a licence on behalf of his members, such a licence is
bound to be the subject of abuse by pirates knowingly or inadvertently.
He raised the question of whether it will be used as
a cover for music not covered in TTCOs repertoire.
Grant said that the giving of letters/certificates of
comfort is predicated on the basis of if you cant
win them, join them. But he said, piracy
requires more creative forms of control that would not compromise
the industry in the long term.
Referring to the editorial of Sunday Guardian (November 28)
titled Copyright farce thats killing soca,
Grant said that the arguments put forward were bent more towards
the issue of Internet piracy. And that while local artistes
may be a victim of such activities our brand of piracy is
more traceable and easier to control.
operations are funded by someone who has the resources for
that type of investment, Grant said.
have seen panel vans pull up on mornings and offload four/five
carts. And if you look at some of these operations now they
are becoming more hi-tech, with built-in speakerssomeones
funding it, thats easy to trace.
Grant says it requires the work of the Customs who in fact
should be able to identify importers of specialised equipment.
He believes that the enforcement/prosecution issue must be
simplified by the amendment of the act and that magistrates
must become sensitive to the artistes plight and make
making an example of a few to establish the seriousness of
the matter. And penalising sufficiently, taking into consideration
compensation for the artistes whose works were stolen,
in T&T is not devious and untraceable, it is very tangible.
It must be driven underground and the law must make provisions
for both pusher and purchaser to be prosecuted.
Until then it is effrontery... Grant said.
Writing in Guardian (December 3) Lucky said It is unfortunate
that instead of cracking down on pirates, the TTCO has decided
to embark on a novel approach to deal with piracy,
namely, taking from pirates a certain percentage of the pirates
ill-gotten monthly income... One can only hope that good sense
will prevail and that TTCO would reconsider its position and
retract its suggestion.
When contacted Demas expressed concern for the fact that the
chutney artistes and their work amount to a lesser part of
the copyrighted works noting that Cott represents 15 million
works of music through collective/bilateral agreements with
other countries. She pointed out Cotts jurisdiction
is much more than local music/genres and that it also includes
Demas said, Having a pirate pay a licence may even lead
them (pirates) to believe and act as though they represent
all of the copyrighted works.
LeRoy Clarke, artist
As a creator and one who professes to have his work influenced
by Shadows music, Clarke expressed sympathy for the
plight of the artistes.
Clarke said, My heart really hurt me to see the boldfacedness
of people publicly stealing from other peoples virtue.
Robbing those who sincerely work.
He said, I am distressed by that kind of disrespect
for those who really toil, and the police right there!
Clarke believes that piracy is a crime that has the support
of big business.
Collective management is the exercise of copyright and related
rights by organisations acting in the interest and on behalf
of rights owners.
Composers, writers, musicians, singers, performers and other
talented individuals are among societys most valuable
The fabric of our cultural lives is enriched by their creative
genius. In order to develop their talent and encourage them
to create, we have to give those individuals incentives, namely
remuneration in return for permission to make use of their
Collective management organisations are an important link
between creators and users of copyrighted works (such as radio
stations) because they ensure that, as owners of rights, creators
receive payment for the use of their works.
This article was published on December 19, 2004, in the Sunday
Caroline Ravello is a director of Copyright Organisation