Non-compliance with copyright regulations and outdated tariffs are hurting the country’s creative sector according to the president of the T&T Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCCO), Asten Isaac.
Speaking to reporters following a Bilateral Agreements Ceremony at the Radisson Hotel yesterday, Isaac said the organisation has some 4,000 members. The organisation’s president, Dr Vijay Ramlal-Rai said TTCCO was only able to generate around $2.3 million in revenue over the last year, missing out on double that due to non-compliance.
According to Isaac, non-compliance isn’t always intentional but often occurs because of a lack of understanding by stakeholders.
“Compliance has been an issue in the sector. It’s not willing to pay. It’s more in the case of not understanding what they are paying for and outdated tariffs, so it’s as though I’m charging you one cent (sic) for a Bobbie in 2023. It’s not applicable as the cost to produce the Bobbie is more than one cent so charging you one cent is outdated, it’s antiquated,” he explained.
“Similarly, the compliance is not only based on the antiquated structure of tariffs but it’s also based on the person’s lack of education and awareness of the importance and the role of copyright in the space.”
Isaac said this education needs to target promoters, producers, artistes, bar owners, restaurant owners and hotel owners on the “different sections of the laws on how you should approach copyright.” He said this is a venture the TTCCO will continue to pursue.
Ramlal-Rai further explained that non-compliance stems from a misunderstanding of which licenses are required from the respective content management organisations (CMOs), itself and The Copyright Music Organisation of T&T.
To reduce these losses, TTCCO and COTT need to come to a united position to share in the licensing. However, he said, COTT has not been responsive to their requests to sign an MOU.
“Nobody knows why. We have been stretching out our hands over and over,” he said.
When contacted, COTT president, Curtis Jordan said he is not aware of any attempts by the TTCCO for any sit-down.
“I have held this position as president only a few months now, having previously served as a director since 2020. To date, I have not received any request for an MOU. During a discussion with former president John Arnold, he conveyed that during his tenure, COTT expressed its willingness on a few occasions, to pursue an MOU, subject to the submission of audited financial statements by both parties. However, regrettably, nothing materialized from this initiative.
“Furthermore, we acknowledge the importance of establishing collective management guidelines and as such, our organization has been actively engaged in conversations with WIPO, IPOs within the region including IPOTT, to develop regional regulations for the industry. Our belief is that this approach to collective management in Trinidad and Tobago would result in a win-win situation for both music creators and users,” Jordan said.
Yesterday the TTCCO signed an MOU with the Jamaica Music Society (JAMMS), and the South Africa Music Performance Rights Association (SAMPRA). TTCCO is expected to sign one with Artisti Canada shortly.
Isaac said this signing provides an opportunity for creatives to track and assess the use of their work, allowing them to capitalise on royalties owed to them from the signatory territories. He said while the TTCCO does not dictate positioning content in these markets, the signing lays the foundation to encourage creatives to generate products in these territories.
“We are not dictating what is being consumed. What we are doing is tracking and identifying what is being consumed and ensuring value is being added to that. That also lends the opportunity for creatives from Trinidad and Tobago who, traditionally, may have had content in that space or utilising in Jamaica, Canada, or South Africa and they were not able to identify and track that content to be remunerated for such, now they have that through this bilateral agreement which speaks specifically to the artiste’s content. So we encourage the Oulatunji’s to go across in South Africa and put down an album and put down a concert because we are tracking it for you,” he said.
Isaac said the agreement will also allow artistes from the signatory territories to follow suit in T&T and earn royalties from content in the local market.