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Important role of copyright agencies

Monday, February 3, 2014
Law Made Simple

Copyright collecting agencies (also called copyright collectives or collections agencies) are organisations which collect royalties on behalf of their members. Their members may include artists, authors, musicians and other owners of copyright works. Artists (such as visual artists, authors, musicians and filmmakers) use copyright collecting agencies to grant licences of their copyright to third parties. 



The collections agencies (1) negotiate licences of their members’ works, (2) collect the royalties, (3) retain a proportion of the fees that they collect as a commission, and (4) then distribute the remainder to their copyright owner members. These agencies make it easier for copyright owners to license their work. They also simplify the process of licensing for prospective users of copyright material who otherwise need to identify and locate the copyright owner and negotiate a licence on an individual basis. 


Some copyright collecting agencies have reciprocal relationships with equivalent collecting agencies overseas and are able to access licensing opportunities for their members outside Trinidad and Tobago. As such, they may also be able to facilitate licences of international works to Trinidadian users. Other functions of copyright collection agencies include:
• Representing copyright owner members and protecting their economic and creative interests by documenting and identifying unauthorised use of members’ works and pursuing infringers;
• Creating international affiliations with copyright collecting societies overseas so that licence fees can be collected for overseas use; and
• Educating the public and representing their members on a national and international level.


There are several competing copyright collective agencies in T&T. These include the Copyright Music Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago, the Trinidad and Tobago Copyright Collection Organisation and Awesome Limited. It should be noted that these entities are all private corporations and are not state agencies. Section 41A(1) of the Copyright Act Chap. 82:80 sets out the elements of an offence as it relates to public performances. 


Any person who causes an infringement by the public performance of a copyright work or sound recording; or by the playing or showing in public of a sound recording or film is guilty of an offence if he/she knew or had reason to believe that copyright would be infringed. By section 41A(2) of the Act “a person guilty of an offence under subsection (1), is liable on summary conviction to a fine of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and to imprisonment for ten years.”


The Ministry of Legal Affairs provides guidelines on the licences required for public performances:
• Any performance that is outside of the normal domestic circle is public. At any public party, both the promoter and the DJ are required to obtain a licence from the relevant collective management organisation(s) to play music. This applies even if the DJ is at a house party or ‘blocko.’
• It is of no consequence whether the public performance is given live or by means of a radio, television, stereo player, jukebox, video or karaoke. Neither does it matter if no admission fee is charged nor whether the performers are paid or not. Further, the possession of a record, tape or CD does not grant the right to perform that music in public. In each of these instances a licence is necessary.
• During Carnival, registered DJs are offered a special taping concession that authorises the recording of compilation music for the purpose of performing such music on trucks.


A licence is not required for:
• The playing of music in the privacy of your home.
• Performances during religious services in churches or other established places of worship.
• Live performances of musicals, operas, ballets and other dance.


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