Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Jamaica cable-TV on US watch list

Published:Monday | May 11, 2015 | 5:47 AM

The United States said it is watching the progress of proposed amendments to Jamaica’s Broadcasting and Radio Re-diffusion Act that would appear to permit advertising from local entities on the channels of foreign cable operators with the permission of content providers.
However, according to the 2015 Special 301 Report, an annual review by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) of the state of intellectual property rights protection and enforcement, such a move may lead to regulatory challenges and be difficult to enforce.
The USTR, which has kept Jamaica on its watch list for 2015, noted that in the area of copyright, it is one of several Caribbean countries with deficiencies related to protection and enforcement.
Placement of a trading partner on the ‘Priority Watch List’ or ‘Watch List’ indicates that particular problems exist in that country with respect to intellectual property rights protection, enforcement or market access for persons relying on those rights.
“For several years, Jamaica has been identified by rights holders as one of the region’s most problematic markets with respect to the unlicensed and uncompensated cablecasting and broadcasting of copyrighted music,” it said.
The USTR adds that Jamaica maintains a statutory licensing regime for the retransmission of copyrighted television programming, but has not consistently enforced the payment of statutory royalties to rights holders.
The report said, however, that Jamaica has taken some steps to ensure that its regulatory agencies are monitoring broadcasting entities.
“The United States also continues to encourage Jamaica to adopt the long-awaited Patent and Designs Act, which has been under review for nearly a decade, and notes the recent developments with respect to copyright law amendments. The United States looks forward to working with Jamaica to address these issues,” the report said.
Other regional countries on the watch list include Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Trinidad and Tobago.
According to the USTR, the 301 Report serves a critical function by identifying opportunities and challenges facing the US’s innovative and creative industries in foreign markets and by promoting job creation, economic development and many other benefits that effective intellectual property rights protection and enforcement support.
“USTR looks forward to working closely with the governments of the trading partners that are identified in this year’s Report to address both emerging and continuing concerns, and to continue to build on the positive results that many of these governments have achieved,” it said.
It noted that the United States continued to express serious concerns regarding copyright protection and enforcement in the Caribbean region.
According to the report, the US has raised those issues at Caricom meetings in 2013 and 2014, and would continue to engage member governments in discussions in markets where the infringements persist.
The US’ concerns regarding Caricom and associated markets include musical works publicly performed by radio and television broadcasting stations without licences from the appropriate public performances rights organisations. This problem has been reported again this year in Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Cable operators and television and radio broadcasters, some government-owned (for example in Barbados), reportedly refused to negotiate with the performance rights organisations for compensation for public performances of music,” the USTR said.
Performance rights organisations also assert that they have struggled to advance their legal claims in local courts and, even when successful, cannot obtain payments.
With regard to cable and satellite broadcasting of copyrighted network programming, although Antigua, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent currently maintain a statutory licensing regime that includes a requirement to pay royalties to rights holders, reportedly, royalties are not being paid.
Other countries in the region, including Anguilla, the Cayman Islands, Dominica, Montserrat, and Turks & Caicos Islands do not maintain statutory licensing regimes and reportedly fail to intercede when unauthorised entities, many of them government-owned, intercept and retransmit copyrighted content without remuneration. Satellite signal theft remains a serious concern in these countries as well, said the USTR report.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com