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Media houses still owing coverage fees

PORT OF SPAIN – With three days left before Carnival, three major media houses – Guardian Media Ltd, One Caribbean Media Ltd and the state-owned Caribbean New Media Group – face a threat of legal action if they do not pay for copyright fees for mas.

The media houses faced this scenario yesterday after attorney for the T&T Copyright Collection Organisation, Carlton George, sent them a letter dated February 1, which gave them until yesterday afternoon to agree to pay the fees he claimed they owed.

In a brief telephone interview yesterday, George said the letter sought to clarify the issue of non-payment of copyright fees for “works of mas” for National Carnival Development Foundation, a TTCO client. George said the National Carnival Commission had given the TTCO the names of the organisations which it had issued accreditation to for Carnival coverage, and TTCO in turn was attempting to obtain money owed to its client. The fees were said to be payable for broadcasting or publishing images of the works of mas.

The TTCO has already issued a pre-action protocol letter to the NCC, claiming the NCC had breached the NCDF’s copyright. In the letter to GML, George said it had come to TTCO’s attention that the NCC had breached TTCO’s copyright by bypassing TTCO’s licensing regime and issuing press accreditation.

The letter said the NCC had informed the TTCO that for the years 2007-2011, the T&T Publishing Company Ltd and the CNC 3 TV station (now both part of GML) had obtained press accreditation.

TTCO’s letter said it believed the accreditation had been granted without the payment of requisite licensing fees. It asked GML to pay a total of $240,000 in fees owing to the TTCO for the years 2007 to 2012 and pay a further $100,000 for a licence for works of mas for 2013. If the TTCO did not receive what it described as an adequate response by yesterday, the option of legal action to recover damages was given as an alternative.

Managing director of GML, Gabriel Faria, said the company had always dealt with the NCC on coverage and accreditation for Carnival events.

“It is our understanding that the NCC was the authorised party on this issue and that we have been doing what is legally correct. But we are seeking legal advice on this matter. We received the letter today (yesterday), so we have not had time to respond,” Faria said.

Group CEO of OCM, Dawn Thomas, said OCM had also received a letter and was seeking legal advice.

Ken Ali, CEO of CNMG, meanwhile, said his organisation had raised the issue with the NCC.

“We are examining the letter and if it is established that this organisation represents these artistes and the money is owed, then we will pay whatever copyright fees necessary. But as of now the letter is being dealt with by our legal team,” Ali said. (Guardian)

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