Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer
The Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers (JACAP) has reacted to criticism of Jamaica's compliance with copyright regulations.
In early May, Jamaica was named by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) as one of the rogue countries which will remain on a Special 301 Watch List because of its inadequate payment of public-performance royalties.
The USTR is contending that foreign governments should ensure that adequate copyright payments are made when US musical compositions are performed in TV and radio broadcasts, over cable systems and in all other kinds of public performances.
JACAP General Manager Lydia Rose said the collecting agency has made several attempts to educate the industry players about the importance of adhering to the copyright regulations. However, there are still those who are in breach.
"Unfortunately, there is a passive and an active resistance from many of the players as far as compliance with the copyright law is concerned. JACAP has done its utmost to educate those persons who fall under our purview, yet still, at the end of the day their cry is that they were ignorant of the law. Now, we are faced with a situation in which no less a body than the Office of the United States Trade Representative has deemed it necessary to highlight this very sore issue, and it puts us in a negative light," Rose explained in a JACAP release.
While welcoming the move by USTR seeking accountability, JACAP has aligned itself with the Constabulary Force (JCF) in a bid to strengthen and enforce the Copyright Act (1993).
All broadcasters, cable operators, bars, restaurants, promoters, corporate sponsors, venue operators, event planners and businessplaces are, therefore, encouraged to adhere to the act and avoid legal repercussions.
"We have been in discussions with the police over the last couple of months, in an effort to form some kind of partnership as far as the issuing of licences and permits are concerned. We are now at the point where being in possession of a licence from JACAP will be a requirement to being granted a licence from the police to host an event," Rose stated in the release.
The Jamaica Music Society (JAMMS) is responsible for managing the broadcasting and public performance rights of record producers, the owners of master sound recordings, in Jamaica.
In 2010, JAMMS' chairman Danny Browne told The Gleaner that the highest level of payment resistance came from the lower-level players in the marketplace. He said the more organised companies have a higher level of compliance . Also, he said, it is easier to track commercial radio than more informal music industry players.
Browne had said once music is played in public, payments should be made by all industry players. In a Sunday Gleaner story of March 3 this year, Ruddy Isaacs, brother and former manager of late reggae icon Gregory Isaacs, argued that selectors should pay fees to collection agencies. However, some selectors fired back in a later story in The STAR, arguing that they were pivotal in artiste development by the playing of their music. They also said that the issue of royalties should be between the artistes and record labels, and not everybody who plays music in public.
Evon Mullings, general manager of JAMMS, had said the promoters are the ones who should be paying and not the DJs/selectors.
"Event promoters are the persons responsible for obtaining the required copyright permit to ensure that events are complying with the relevant provisions of copyright laws governing the playing of recorded music publicly. As the beneficial owners of the event, the promoter must seek to have in place all the required licences, permits and consents that are needed to ensure that the event is meeting all legal obligations," he said.
Also on the US Trade Representative watch list for unsatisfactory payments are Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago.