Carnival’s Axis of Copyright; what’s wrong with the NCC

I’ve been advised, by a source with no reason to lie about such things, that some quite draconian fees have been instituted for the coverage of Carnival in 2013.

These fees break out as follows…

NCC Fees: Personal use – $600.00, Commercial use – $800.00

Additional National Carnival Bandleader’s Association (NCBA) fees for coverage of costumed bands and individuals: personal use – $5,900.00, commercial use – $10,000.00(permits two years of local usage). For international commercial usage for U.K. and Europe add $3,500.00. for international commercial usage for the US, add $3000.00.

It’s unclear what rights “commercial usage” covers. That’s very specific terminology in photographic licensing and would, if the NCBA understands what they are talking about here, these terms would allow a photographer to cover Carnival and sell it to, say, Prada for an advertising campaign in the US and Europe.

If that’s the case, $16,500 is a steal of a deal.

I suspect, however, that this isn’t what this Axis of Copyright has in mind.The NCC/NCBA/TUCO/Pan Trinbago coalition of shortsightedness has tended to see “commercial usage” as magazines offered for sale and prints sold in a photographic outlet, neither of which is particularly commercial or profitable and those fees applied to magazines could stand some testing in court.

Photo: Sailor mas in 2011.
(Courtesy Marshe)

The absurdity of charging for the documentation of a national festival isn’t something that photographers have been railing out only recently. In this interview with Noel Norton, he laments the fees charged more than 20 years ago which he paid every year in order to continue his work recording the national festival.

I witnessed begging expeditions by these same Carnival stakeholders to Norton’s studio to get access to images for one project or another, requests that the normally stern Mary Norton would always try to accommodate. Both of the Nortons photographed Carnival because they really loved this country and wanted to do their part to participate in its development.

In 2005, when they really began to struggle with the yearly trek to the Savannah, I wrote this letter to the NCC. A good friend of mine was present when it was read to the leadership of the NCC and it earned a single response: “What did Noel Norton ever do for Carnival?”

Not a single person spoke up for his years of service and the access they had offered to their archives. If anyone has ever wondered why I have been so biliously venal in my contempt for the NCC and everything it stands for, this is one outstanding reason why.

Now Carnival’s Axis of copyright seems to want to limit or at the very least, severely tax the recording of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival. This is such a stunningly myopic notion that I cannot speak to it at all, instead I’ll just let Andrea De Silva explain why.

I’m very tempted to walk away from this mountain of crap. But here’s the truth. Carnival is bigger and more important than the stupidity of the people who are appointed to run it. There will come a day when we look back on these decisions and lament the chilling effect they had on serious coverage and documentation, but that won’t bring those lost events and personalities back.

Hundreds of hours of Carnival coverage have been either lost or are steadily deteriorating in what remains of TTT’s video archives. This year’s Panorama Semi-Finals went unrecorded while negotiations over rights dithered on.

The Norton Archive of Carnival, captured through love and preserved with dedication, remains our most complete record of the last fifty years of Carnival and it is now, justifiably, the inheritance of Mary and Noel’s family.

Instead of acknowledging that there is a small but important tradition of documenting Carnival in this country and finding ways to seek mutual reward in the recording for posterity and future leverage of our country’s creative patrimony, the Axis of copyright has chosen taxation as its only tactic of negotiation and discussion.

Please read the conclusion of Lyndersay’s column on his own website, BitDepth, by clicking: Here

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  1. I remember ranting possibly a decade ago about how a certain individual wanted to kill Carnival, because of some decision they had made that was completely senseless….and I will rant here again that clearly the NCC (the axis of copyright) is trying to kill Carnival by denying photographers (and accredited photographers, no less) the rights to freely photograph what they had no business in creating…what does NCC do for Carnival, except collect exorbitant fees and (lol sorry, but I had to laugh at the thought of masqueraders wining for residents of Mucurapo cemetery and an empty Jamaat compound!) schedule the parade of bands? It’s a sad spectacle – masqueraders paying the exorbitant prices they pay for costumes these days, at least deserve a two minutes on the national stage (not sure how global it will be with those fees)! The heights of idiocy is clearly rampant among the NCC officials who are wielding a power that was carelessly entrusted to them and in the end our culture, our Carnival and our people will suffer, because Reuters has a very valid point in their reasons for not paying for access to coverage. Now I wonder what the situation is like in Brazil, but clearly if the St. Lucia Jazz Festival can get it together to treat these important archivists with some measure of dignity, our “first world” (developed status?) NCC officials should be able to muster up some semblance of intelligence and do the same. And if they don’t can’t we just fire them all?

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