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Carnival copyright and how it changed our mas

It shouldn’t be surprising, given the NCC’s failure to hold a public consultation on the copyright issues that arose in 2013, to find the whole ugly mess bubbling up again. 

Photographers who went to the NCC to seek accreditation for the 2014 edition of the event found no reductions in the fee and a new and shocking issue to deal with.

On February 11, photographers seeking a pass to cover Carnival were told that if they checked the online option on the form, it would not be approved.

The NCBA, they were told, had sold the right to publish online to a single unnamed entity. (Read Narend Sooknarine’s account of that meeting here.)

Photo: A Carnival meggie. (Courtesy Georgia Popplewell)
Photo: A Carnival meggie.
(Courtesy Georgia Popplewell)

That story changed within 24 hours to an approval for websites. When confronted with this story by the Guardian’s Kalifa Clyne last week, NCBA bossman David Lopez dismissed the possibility.

Apparently, one is left to assume, bored clerical staff must have made up the whole story to add a bit of spice to a dull day. Yes that must be it, because otherwise, someone is lying.

Meanwhile, the TTCO has launched another boarding manoeuvre that seems unrelated to the rights hijack allegedly underway at the NCBA.

The collection agency has demanded backpay in the sum of $6 million on behalf of the NCDF, one of the three organisations that represent the interests of bandleaders and, it is widely rumored, masqueraders.

At the heart of all this bacchanal is the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars for a nebulous product called “copyright fees,” a uniquely T&T invention designed to satisfy Carnival stakeholders that they are getting a cut of all the nonexistent money being made by photographers and motion crews off their hard work.

There is, of course, no such fortune being made by anyone, most documenters of Carnival doing so out of love or cussedness in the face of outright hostility and barely feigned disinterest.

Photo: A masquerader plays the traditional sailor mas for Carnival. (Courtesy Marshe)
Photo: A masquerader plays the traditional sailor mas for Carnival.
(Courtesy Marshe)

That this demand was met with unthinking acquiescence almost 20 years ago only cemented in the minds of mas men in particular that they were right all along.

When media managers should have stood up for the right to publish and broadcast in the public interest, a governing clause of the T&T copyright act, they abdicated that responsibility through ignorance, disinterest and laziness.

The country has never stopped paying for that act of naked greed and the weak-kneed response of publishers and broadcasters.
Serious coverage of Carnival, already sketchy, was completely abandoned in favour of magazines with cover to cover half-naked babes.

 

Click here to read the conclusion of this opinion piece.

AboutMark Lyndersay

Mark Lyndersay
Mark Lyndersay has been a professional photographer and journalist working in Trinidad and Tobago over the last thirty-five years. His column on personal technology, BitDepth, is the longest running continuous reporting on tech in Trinidad and Tobago.

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