Image via WikipediaMas costume designers and masqueraders can now enjoy real benefits from their labour as “Works of Mas” are now globally recognised and protected by intellectual property rights. Dr Vijay Ramlal, head of the T&T Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCO), confirmed this during a telephone interview on Sunday. “TTCO, in collaboration with the Legal Affairs Ministry, under the Intellectual Property Division and through National Carnival Development Foundation, had successfully piloted to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva to establish and accept the Works of Mas into the WIPO convention,” Ramlal said.
He said this was approved last December. “This would also make TTCO the only entity to collect and negotiate royalties for mas bands,” Ramlal said. He stated this was a significant achievement as it would allow any works of mas in the world to be recognised as intellectual property. “This was the first phase and we are now pushing for it to be recognised under the WIPO treaty and if it is successful, then T&T would be recognised globally as the intellectual property centre for the works of mas,” Ramlal said. “We would now be known for the headquarters for the works of mas.”
He added that all countries will be able to sign on and have protection for their mas under this copyright, just as was done for music. The WIPO treaty is expected to be negotiated and formulated around April /May of this year, he noted. Ramlal said with that achievement TTCO would also be able to collect royalties and accreditation fees internationally for its 153 membership mas bands in T&T. “We are the only recognised body in the world to do so,” he added.
Stakeholders to receive their just dues
Ramlal said stakeholders in the mas industry have not been receiving their just dues. “The system which NCC and other bodies has been using is undermining the value of our Carnival,” he said. Drawing an example, he said the accreditation fees collected by the NCC from organisations and international media provided no real value for mas stakeholders. “It is equal to holding a ticket to enter a fete…these subscription rights cannot be exploitative and cannot be used for commercial use… as it has no real value,” Ramlal pointed out. However, people were abusing that right and placing photos in magazines, postcards and DVDs without proper authorisation, he noted.
He also stated that there were no proper monitoring systems in place to oversee these organisations and international media during the staging of Carnival in T&T. He added: “These are some of the issues that have not been explored and we are in the process of dealing with them. “Therefore we need to negotiate with NCC, the international media and every carnival committee to obtain a royalty collection licence with the TTCO for the masqueraders, designers and producers to have their just due,” Ramlal said.
Two sets of rights
According to Ramlal, there are two sets of rights. In one instance, where an establishment like the airport may showcase a costume, the airport has to pay copyright protection fees. The other, he said, is an appearance fee where masqueraders perform at shows like the King and Queen mas competitions.
The body responsible for the show has to pay fees, including performance rights and costume rights and another that will protect the designer/producer of the costume.