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What's on the beat for COTT members, COTT licensees and those interested in the local music industry.

Trinidad and Tobago placed on the US Trade Representative Watch list due to cable operator’s non-payment of licence fees

Port of Spain, Trinidad, May 14 2013: Trinidad and Tobago has been placed on a watch list of the US Trade Representative (USTR) as this country has failed to enforce copyright law.

The USTR Special 301 Report, which highlights the continuing systemic intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement issues presented in many trading partners around the world, including Trinidad and Tobago, placed this country for the first time on this watch list due to, as it reports "...particular problems exist in that country with respect to IPR protection, enforcement, or market access for persons relying on IPR."

This Report, published in May 2013 is an annual review of the state of IPR protection and enforcement in trading partners around the world. The Report cites that "...the United States is concerned that the local cable operator refuses to negotiate with the Copyright Music Organization of Trinidad and Tobago (“COTT”), the local performing rights organization, for compensation for public performance of music, including for music written by American composers."

COTT's President, John Ryan Romany stated that placing Trinidad and Tobago on this watch list is quite disheartening as COTT continues to engage key government organisations and authorities on this and other related challenges.

He further explained, "Being placed on this watch list by no way means COTT has not sufficiently done its job on this matter. In fact COTT has very close relations with ASCAP (USA), BMI (USA), SESAC (USA) and PRS (UK) via a signed memorandum of understanding (MOU). They are aware of the challenges of compliance we face in our country and are prepared to provide us with the necessary support. During the Carnival season the public at large would have also become aware of the many battles we had to engage in to protect the rights of our members and international affiliates. This USTR Report highlights that the relevant authorities have not have yet done its part to protect the rights of creators of music - a duty that is enshrined in the existing trade agreements between this Government and the US."

Josh Rudder, Chief Executive Officer of the Organisation also expressed concerns on this latest development adding that it has come as no surprise to COTT as this matter has been ongoing. He stated that Trinidad and Tobago’s laws are very clear on IPR and copyright infringement is a criminal offence. COTT has taken legal action against a number of copyright infringers; however there must be collective effort and support from other stakeholders including key government organisations, regulatory bodies, and law enforcers. Rudder added that there are concessionaire agreements granted by one of these regulatory bodies, which are essentially licences to the cable operators and broadcasters. One of the conditions in granting such a licence is that the concessionaire must first obtain permission from the relevant owners of any intellectual property and the must not infringe the intellectual property rights of any person.

According to Rudder, "The gravity of this Report indicates that the US Government is now holding our Government accountable for the IPR challenges that are affecting the income to US songwriters and publishers. It has now become a matter that can affect trade relations, meaning that, the trade preferences our country has enjoyed with the US can be at risk."

Commenting on the Report, the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) issued a media release addressing the challenges facing the Caribbean Countries in particular Trinidad and Tobago. It stated that ASCAP "urged USTR to place Trinidad and Tobago among Jamaica and Barbados on the watch list because in these countries, leading cable operators and broadcasters refuse to pay for the public performance of music, or even to negotiate with the local performing rights organizations (ASCAP’s partners). In these countries, it found that issues of nonpayment go without remedy before the courts and other government authorities, and ASCAP applauds the efforts of USTR to increase Government accountability for these failings."

Rudder expressed that COTT will continue to do its part and fulfill its mandate to the local membership and International Affiliates. The Organisation, he stated will continue to engage the relevant Authorities and Ministries on this matter and calls on them to play an active and collective role in addressing this recent development with the Organisation.

The USTR assessment of Trinidad and Tobago asserts that "The United States urges the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to take all necessary actions to ensure that cable operators in Trinidad and Tobago operate in compliance with the provisions of their cable license agreements related to IPR and that, more generally, IPR is protected in its territory."

The full version of the 2013 Special 301 Report is available at www.ustr.gov

About COTT

COTT, established as far back as 1984, collects licence fees for composers, authors and publishers when musical works are publicly performed, broadcast, recorded, used or transmitted on the internet, and/or otherwise communicated to the public.

These fees are then distributed to the creators of the musical works and their publishers by way of royalties.

Through international affiliation, COTT administers the rights of over 1 million authors and composers and in excess of 40 million musical works, in addition to the works of its own over 2500 local members.

The Organisation is a member of the regional Caribbean body, the Association of Caribbean Copyright States (ACCS), and is affiliated with the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), the world governing body for Collective Management Organisations.

For further information please contact La Toya Jackson, Office of the CEO at 624-2688 ext 2102 or communications@cott.org.tt.

Posted by: cindy::May 14, 2013



    COTT Congratulates Winsford 'Joker' DeVine & Andrew 'Lord Superior' Marcano

    The Copyright Music Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT) congratulates Andrew ‘Lord Superior’ Marcano, Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) COTT Member for 32 years and Winsford ‘Joker’ DeVine, Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) COTT Member for 22 years on receiving Honorary Degrees for their priceless contributions to Music and the Arts.

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