All businesses that play copyright music are at risk of legal action if they refuse to comply with the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organisation for Music Rights’ (ECCO’s) copyright tariff, or refuse to obtain the necessary permission to play copyright music.
This comes just after event organisers and disc jockeys (DJ’s) raised a fuss over news of what they thought was an additional entertainment tax being imposed upon them for playing local and regional music.
Officials from ECCO explained that the organisation merely acts as a bridge between its members and promoters who are required to compensate the ECCO members for their creativity.
Speaking on one of ZDK’s morning programs, ECCO officials revealed that there are consequences if people fail to provide compensation.
“As for your laws, any infringement is subject to fines and possible imprisonment. From ECCO’s perspective it will be a civil matter where we could take the infringer to court,” Operations Manager of ECCO, Vanesta Mortley, said.
The CEO of ECCO, Davis Joseph, then quickly added that they can even initiate an injunction to prevent a music user from having an event, but do not wish to take that route.
Over the weekend, event organisers expressed outrage over this news and implored the media to conduct an investigation. One organiser complained that he was turned away when he attempted to obtain his event license.
ECCO addressed the possible reason for this issue stating that the company has joined forces with local police so that an ECCO license could become a prerequisite to getting permission for amplified sound.
This fee being imposed upon the public is what ECCO refers to as a copyright royalty. These royalties are collected by ECCO’s local agent, Bernard De Nully, and placed in an account managed by ECCO.
The collected monies are distributed annually to the rights holder.
Mortley went on to explain how the fees are distributed saying that “For premises and businesses there is an annual fee. There are no extra charges after you pay that fee. For events, there could be a blanket license if the promoter could list all of their events for the year. Other than that, it is on an event- by-event basis.”
The ECCO officials also admitted that some of these monies would be used to pay salaries.
“The fees collected, I will confirm, it does go toward paying salaries and administrative costs of the organisation. It is a non-profit organisation, so as a result, any fees that we collect after we take an overhead then that is what will be distributed to music [producers],” Mortley continued.
Hotels, bars, radio stations, cafe’s and any other small businesses that use copyright music are not exempt from paying these fees.
However, it is promoters of major events in particular, who are expected to provide a list to ECCO detailing the music used at their event. The country agent will also be conducting an assessment and will report back, the ECCO officials said. A general rule will apply to smaller establishments.
ECCO is a copyright management organisation with the responsibility for administering the rights of authors, composers and publishers for the use of their music.
Members of ECCO or other Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) have transferred their rights which gives these institutions the right to act on behalf of the music owner.
ECCO said that their fees may appear unfamiliar to many because the company did not have a local agent for about two years. As such, they are now restarting the licensing process.
The copyright organisation added that non-compliance in Antigua is high and despite meeting with the local promoter’s association in January they recognise the need to meet again and hear the concerns of the parties involved prior to imposing the copyright royalty.