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Jan 27, 1998

Music piracy still strong in Trinidad

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After many years of dormancy, a copyright bill appears ready to be reintroduced into law, as part of government’s efforts to uphold its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization. But does the mere passage of legislation guarantee an end to piracy? Trinidad and Tobago Television hit the streets of Port of Spain and found that the answer is a resounding “no.”

1997 saw a new copyright law come into being but many people still don’t know what it’s about. Especially since if you walk into Port of Spain any day of the week you see people selling copied tapes in full view of the police. But are they breaking the law? On the promenade we spoke to three people, each with his own portable music center and lots of nameless tapes for sale.

Mariel Brown

“Tell me, have you got permission from COT to sell them?”

Music vendor 1

“From?”

Mariel Brown

“COTT, the Copyright Organization?”

Music vendor 1

“Well we have the copyright organization em, poster em, on here. I make sure I have that thing on the board but right now they’re coming down with something harder and you know what I mean. We’re trying to fight it. We know there are pirates and thing on the streets but we’re still trying to fight it. We gotta to live.”

With his expired COTT license in hand, Remdon is firm in the belief that his selling of music is perfectly legal.

Music vendor 1

“Well, they say they want to stop the pirating but, we gotta live on the streets too eh. They don’t expect we to go and rob and thief so.”

Mariel Brown

“As far as you?re aware, you’re following the law?”

Music Vendor 1

“Yes.”

Mariel Brown

“And you don’t think you are doing anything wrong?”

Music vendor 1

“No, I think, I no thief nor robbing no world.”

About twenty yards away Marvin is selling his music. Again he proudly displays his license which he pays a monthly fee of a hundred and fifty dollars. He says that the police hassle him a lot but he doesn’t see why. But he does admit to some wrong doing.

Mariel Brown

“What is illegal?”

Music vendor 2

“The duplicating part.”

At the other side of the promenade at the bottom of Chatcan Street we found another vendor who said his license was being processed by COTT. He says selling music is his livelihood.

Music vendor 3

“How we living could be against the law?”

He even started to wax philosophical.

Mariel Brown

“Do you understand that this is bad?”

Music vendor 3

“Well, music, music is a gift from the Almighty. Music belong to everybody and not one person then. As long as people have a higher tone they could at least share that with, something sharing them.”

But a source at COTT says none of these vendors have licenses to sell music; they only have licenses to play music. This may be so but why aren’t the police doing anything about the vendors. Attorney at Law Alison Demas says part of the reason for this is that the police simply haven’t known what the law entails. The Legal Affairs Minister says the ministry is working to stop this kind of activity. She says consideration is given to setting up a copyright task force. In the meantime perhaps someone could inform these bewildered vendors of the situation. Mariel Brown reporting for T.T.T. news.

Under the terms of the W.T.O. agreement Belize must fall into line with regard to copyright by January first of the year two thousand. If not, the country would face possible trade sanctions from other W.T.O. members, particularly the United States.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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