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COTT threatens to shut down 7 Carnival fetes

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Copyright Organisation of T&T (COTT) is threatening legal action against the promoters of seven Carnival fetes, scheduled over the next two weeks, for failing to pay copyright licence fees. The organisation, through its attorney Dave McKenzie, yesterday sent pre-action protocol letters warning the promoters it would seek High Court injunctions to stop the events if the fees were not paid. McKenzie also referred to Section 41 (3) of the Copyright Act, saying fete promoters and the owners of the venues may be liable to a $250,000 fine and ten years’ imprisonment if they are convicted of hosting the events without a copyright licence.


COTT confirmed that its representatives were engaged in discussions with some of the seven promoters over the issue, but said no agreements had been made up to late yesterday.  
Five of the fetes are carded to take place this weekend, while the others are advertised for next Sunday. The legal letter mirrors another sent almost three weeks ago to the Soaka Till Sunrise promoters. COTT did not follow through with that legal threat after the fete’s promoter, WOW Event, came to an agreement with them. In a telephone interview yesterday, Michael Sealy, of Misty Ridge Events, which is hosting three of the parties under threat, said he would not be paying COTT as they had already secured a licence from another registered copyright company. 
“As promoters we are legally required to obtain a copyright licence from one of the registered companies. The legislation never said that we must take one from COTT,” Sealy said. 
“No judge in any competent court would grant any injunction. We have satisfied our legal requirements.”

Sealy said his organisation had already consulted with its attorneys and was not fearful of COTT’s legal letter. He described COTT’s actions as “bullying” and questioned the timing of its letters, which he said were usually only issued days before an event was to be held. Shawn Anton, promoter for Double Up, another of the affected fetes, said he had not spoken to his attorneys and would issue a statement today. 


COTT doing its job
Contacted yesterday, COTT communication officer Adanna Asson defended its position on the issue. “We are clearly ensuring that we collect the royalties that are supposed to be paid to our members. It is our mandate to collect on their behalf,” Asson said. She said promoters should obtain licences from her organisation, as it held the rights for “90 per cent of authors and composers in T&T” and was also internationally accredited. Asson said while its competitor, the T&T Copyright Organisation (TTCO), has the right to issue copyright licences for live performances, COTT dealt specifically with authors and composers, who were sometimes overlooked.


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