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Fighting piracy in our local music industry
Piracy is an industry that can cost writers and composers tens of millions of dollars, as well as being a societal problem which starts from music users, authors and composers who “do what is necessary to get their music to play often,” said Enrico Camejo, media, mechanicals and digital licensing specialist at the Copyright Organisation of T&T (COTT).
Globally, estimates suggest that losses from piracy in the music industry can climb to as large as US$12.5 billion annually.
COTT is the official entity which deals with the collection of license fees for the use of music which are assigned to COTT by the authors and composers in T&T.
COTT licenses its authors and composers which comprises about 4,000 members.
In the past, Camejo said before COTT intensified its efforts to clamp down on piracy, the trend was that if an artiste was not getting his music played on the radio station, the composers would give it to the pirates to play on the streets in the hope that it would become popular.
Broadly speaking, piracy is big business as trends have shown that while it is popular throughout the year, there is a spike after Carnival—both by the locals and visitors—who do not want the entire album, but just one song from one performer, and another two songs from another performer.
Comparing this to what happens in other countries internationally, Camejo said if someone likes an artiste, they go out and purchase the album and hardly ever pirate the music.
YouTube—which is a popular platform for those who like music of all kinds—plays its part to contributing to piracy he said.
According to Camejo it’s a two-fold method of piracy, because anyone can go on YouTube, download a song and put it on a CD.
The second method through which YouTube participates in piracy is via blasting, that is, when artistes and managers upload a song on YouTube in order to get it popular. This was started six or seven years ago.
Blasting, he said, is where the song is given to a distributor and they blast the song on YouTube.
They can also blast a copy of the MP3 straight to the DJs, so when the DJ gets the song it is downloaded and played in the parties.
“I have spoken to writers telling them they are doing damage to themselves. Before there was blasting, there were writers who were giving their songs to pirates on the streets.
“Radio stations weren’t playing the music so the composers had to find other means to gain for their songs to gain popularity. Some people call it the soca mafia, if you are not within the circle, no one hears your music unless you go to the parties and ask the DJ to play the song.”
Being a pirate can be lucrative for some as one can earn at least $2,000 per week selling roughly 100 CDs, he said.
Asked if COTT has been able to get a measure of control over piracy Camejo said stopping piracy is like killing ants—when one ant is killed about three appear.
Though difficult to control, Camejo assured that measures have been put in place by COTT’s licensing and revenue department to work with the police to clamp down on the problem.
Asked how many cases have arisen out of piracy he said about 100 cases within a 12-year period, but he is satisfied that piracy has been reduced by about 75 per cent.
“I remember that in 2009, every corner had two or three pirates. We found the place where they used to hide the carts on Charlotte Street. Chaguanas was worse than Port-of-Spain but, due to the work by police, they were able to clamp down on it.”
He said the problem was so bad that people who had business places or other establishments started to complain about the noise outside their premises.
Asked whether there were any trends that indicated whether the proliferation of piracy was more in one area as compared to others, Camejo said he did not want to stigmatise any area but he added, “the further away from the castle, the more corruption. The castle here meaning Port-of-Spain.”
The procedure for an author and a composer to be registered with COTT is clear and straightforward Camejo said.
“What we ask on that form is who is author/composer of the song and the melody. A composer is for the melody and an author produces the lyrics. Sometimes three people put a song together—one has the melody and the other two would have the lyrics. The royalties for the song represent 100 per cent in total—the two authors would each get 25 per cent while the composer would get 50 per cent of the royalties because he would have come up with the melody.”
Every member would have notification of works and would submit an MP3 version of their song he said.
COTT has to attend events to monitor the artiste and the song that is played at the Carnival event.
The police have the powers to search and enter the premises or search a vehicle for copyright material.
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