Broad­cast­ers Asked To Com­ply

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Are­port re­leased in March 2015 by the Ja­maica As­so­ci­a­tion of Com­posers Au­thors and Pub­lish­ers (JACAP) in­di­cates that sev­eral me­dia houses are now be­fore the Supreme Court fac­ing charges of breaches of the copy­right laws. The law­suits were brought against them by JACAP which rep­re­sents over two mil­lion cre­ators of mu­sic world­wide, in­clud­ing over 3,400 Ja­maicans.

The me­dia houses be­fore the courts in Ja­maica in­clude CVM Tele­vi­sion Limited, Na­tion­wide News, News Talk 93 FM, Grove Broad­cast­ing Limited (IRIE FM & ZIP 103 FM), KLAS Sports Ra­dio and Is­land Broad­cast­ing Ser­vices Ltd. ‘Cease and De­sist’ let­ters have also been writ­ten to Love FM, Sun City Ra­dio, Mello FM, Bess FM, KC Gospel and Mega JAMZ FM.

JACAP Gen­eral Manager Ly­dia Rose notes, “The cre­ators of mu­sic are un­happy with the il­le­gal use of their works and have man­dated JACAP to take vi­o­la­tors to court for in­fringe­ment of their copy­right.”

JACAP was es­tab­lished in 1999 and has to date paid out over JA$180 mil­lion in roy­al­ties to its mem­bers. Un­der the 1993 copy­right Act of Ja­maica, all users of copy­right mu­sic are re­quired to get a li­cense for the us­age of mu­sic.

The JACAP GM said that af­ter years of ne­go­ti­at­ing, sev­eral broad­cast­ers still re­main non-com­pli­ant, ei­ther mak­ing min­i­mal con­tri­bu­tions or re­fus­ing to sign a con­tract or make any pay­ments. She fur­ther em­pha­sized that users of mu­sic need to un­der­stand that the works/rights of the mu­sic cre­ators must be re­spected as they are the foun­da­tion of the mu­sic in­dus­try and mu­sic events.

Steve Eti­enne, Gen­eral manager of ECCO has taken note of the sit­u­a­tion in Ja­maica. He says, how­ever, that lit­i­ga­tion is al­ways a long drawn out and ex­pen­sive process and is al­ways seen as a last re­sort. He agreed, how­ever, that users of mu­sic must re­spect the rights of the cre­ators and due com­pen­sa­tion in the form of li­censes and roy­al­ties must be re­mit­ted to the var­i­ous col­lec­tion agen­cies op­er­at­ing in the re­gion.

ECCO Inc. (the Eastern Caribbean Col­lec­tive Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mu­sic Rights), a not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion is a so­ci­ety of writ­ers and pub­lish­ers of mu­sic. Through re­cip­ro­cal agree­ments with col­lec­tive man­age­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions through­out the world (also called ‘so­ci­eties’), ECCO rep­re­sents and can li­cense vir­tu­ally the whole world­wide reper­toire of copy­right mu­sic for public per­for­mance, broad­cast, ca­ble trans­mis­sion, on­line and mo­bile use in the OECS. Ad­di­tion­ally, ECCO will li­cense me­chan­i­cal re­pro­duc­tion and syn­chro­niza­tion rights on be­half of writer and pub­lisher mem­bers.

Ac­cord­ing to Eti­enne, over the years broad­cast­ers in Saint Lu­cia by and large have be­come more com­pli­ant when it comes to pay­ing li­censes. “We have done a fairly good job, first with HMS and now with ECCO, at sen­si­tiz­ing our broad­cast­ers and the gen­eral public about the rights of the com­posers and writ­ers,” he says. “How­ever, the re­al­ity is that, as it stands now, our sur­plus for dis­tri­bu­tion for mem­bers is di­min­ished the more legal ac­tion we take against in­fringers. There­fore, it is never some­thing we like to do as mem­bers ex­pect their roy­alty cheques to be mean­ing­ful. In­stead, we im­plore per­sons to com­ply with the law and to sit and dis­cuss with us if there are any is­sues,” he adds.

As the rep­re­sen­ta­tive agency for some of the OECS is­lands in­clud­ing Do­minica, Gre­nada, St. Vin­cent, An­tigua, St. Kitts and Saint Lu­cia, Eti­enne ad­mits that ECCO does have chal­lenges in some of the is­lands. “You find that th­ese is­lands, who have not had the pres­ence of a col­lec­tion agency like ECCO rep­re­sent­ing copy­right own­ers, are less in­clined to com­ply. So again, we have to go in, sen­si­tize, dis­cuss and of course, when all else fails, we must take legal ac­tion on be­half of our mem­bers,” he stressed.

Here in Saint Lu­cia, where there are now more than twenty-five ra­dio and tele­vi­sion broad­cast­ers, Steve Eti­enne says new threats and chal­lenges have arisen. “What we see hap­pen­ing in Saint Lu­cia is that while there are more broad­cast­ing sta­tions and more mu­sic be­ing played (mem­bers hear more of their mu­sic), the value of mu­sic, so to speak, has di­min­ished. This is be­cause there is now a race to the bot­tom by those sta­tions that have to slash ad­ver­tis­ing rates in or­der to sur­vive. So in­stead of our col­lec­tions in­creas­ing from broad­cast­ers, it has re­mained at ba­si­cally the same level as it was ten years ago,” Eti­enne says.

In light of th­ese chal­lenges, his ad­vice to mu­sic cre­ators is to seek ad­di­tional rev­enue streams and plat­forms for their mu­sic, be­sides mere airplay. He also be­lieves that the cre­ators should also al­ways en­deav­our to cre­ate mu­sic that can be played and/or per­formed any­where in the world. He also ad­vises that mem­bers of the or­ga­ni­za­tion (ECCO) must be­come more aware of the is­sues in their var­i­ous ter­ri­to­ries sur­round­ing copy­right and let their voices be heard when it comes to cre­ation of a sound en­vi­ron­ment within which to op­er­ate by the pow­ers that be. This would in­clude the proper legal and leg­isla­tive frame­work ef­fec­tively en­forced as well as the fa­cil­i­ta­tion of a cre­ative in­dus­try through public/ pri­vate sec­tor part­ner­ship.

“Hav­ing the sup­port of the broad­cast­ers, although es­sen­tial, is only a small part of it,” Eti­enne states.

Mak­ing a pitch for the com­pli­ance by broad­cast­ers and users of mu­sic to pay rel­e­vant li­censes. L-R: CEO of the Copy­right Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT) Josh Rud­der, JACAP Gen­eral Manager Ly­dia

Rose, AS­CAP’s El­iz­a­beth Rodda and ECCO Gen­eral Manager Steve Eti­enne.

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