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US places T&T on copyright watchlist (with CNC3 video)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

COTT and Flow stand off put's T&T on watch



The United States Government has released a report on intellectual property rights (IPR) which has placed T&T on a watchlist as a result of its treatment of the property of local and foreign artistes. The report was compiled by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), which operates out of the executive office of the US President. It points to specific conflict between the Copyright Organisation of T&T (COTT) and the local cable provider, Columbus Communications, which operates the brand Flow.



The report states: “The USTR is placing T&T on the watch list in 2013. The US is concerned that the local cable operator refuses to negotiate with the Copyright Organisation of T&T, the local performing rights organisation, for compensation for public performance of music, including music written by American composers. “Particularly troubling in this case is the fact that a court in 2011 found that the local cable operator was required to obtain a public performance licence and nearly two years later judicial authorities have not completed the appeal hearing nor assessed royalties owed to COTT. “Furthermore, notwithstanding this decision, the local cable operator failed to obtain this licence.”



The report, which was made public last week, added: “The US is also concerned by ongoing delays in the resolution of the longstanding litigation over the collection of unpaid performance royalties from the same cable operator. “The US urges the Government of T&T to take all necessary actions to ensure that cable operators in T&T operate in compliance with the provisions of their cable licence agreements related to IPR and that, more generally, IPR is protected in its territory. “The US looks forward to continuing to work with T&T to address these and other issues."


In response, Columbus Communications says it is committed to ensuring artistes are paid what they are due for use of their work. The company’s corporate vice-president of sales and marketing, Rhea Yaw Ching, said: “Flow/Columbus has successfully negotiated agreements with several other copyright organisations in the region during the time that the COTT matter has been before the court in Trinidad. This fact confirms that Flow is committed to paying fair compensation for holders of copyright. “Until the matters that remain before the court in Trinidad are resolved, Flow counsel has advised that it is not appropriate to say anything further about the specifics of that unresolved dispute.” 



COTT, which represents 25,000 local and international artistes, says “public performances,” as outlined in the report, refers to live performances by artistes, music played on radio, background music, music in advertisements and online music for download. COTT’s CEO Josh Rudder says it has been trying to engage stakeholders with respect to this matter without success. “The impact for us is that we see it as highlighting the importance of COTT. This challenge has been there for a while. We continue to represent the rights of creators. “What it does is that it places the issue on a national level so that all stakeholders can be aware so that it can be resolved,” Rudder said. The US Government could impose sanctions on this country if nothing was done to rectify the matter, he said.


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