Festivals minister hopes for amicable resolution to ECCO dispute

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The Minister of Sports, National Festivals, Culture and the Arts is not taking any side in the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organization (ECCO) copyright fee saga, but instead stated that he understands both sides of the controversy and hopes that common ground can be found between ECCO and event promoters in Antigua and Barbuda.

“I agree with both sides of the issue, but let’s wait and see how best we can implement it so that no party feels disenfranchised,” Matthew said.

“I understand both sides of the issue. I understand the need for copyrights to be protected and for an artist to receive royalties for their work; but I also understand that here in Antigua and Barbuda the peculiar situation we have where we only have a limited amount of artists that are members of ECCO and I very much suspect that the royalties that the artists here are likely to receive would be minimal simply because the exposure and the circulation of the music isn’t as wide as it is in some larger jurisdictions and so I understand both sides of the equation,” the minister added.

Over the past few days, antagonism has developed between event organizers and artists over a copyright royalty being imposed by the copyright management organization, ECCO.

This is because promoters say they have not budgeted for the unexpected 5 percent fee being charged for playing local and regional music.

However, artists who have benefitted or can benefit from said compensation are rooting for the tariff to come into effect.

Matthew told OBSERVER media that he still believes the imposition is a bit severe.

“I believe how ECCO has sought to implement the copyright issue and the collection of royalties may be a bit sudden and draconian. I know that they’ve indicated that they’ve been having discussions or trying to have discussions for many years with promoters or other persons like that and it has proven to be unsuccessful but I believe common sense ought to prevail,” he said.

Moreover, the Festivals Minister is questioning the silence of the local ECCO agent Bernard De Nully.

In fact, earlier this week, Matthew made a request on Facebook to the effect that De Nully should clear the air and explain the rationale and position of the organization which he represents.

Yesterday, Matthew reiterated the significant difference that his (De Nully) coming forward could make as it relates to quelling the outrage of event organizers.

“I said on social media that I believe the agent for ECCO needs to come forward and say something. I’m not sure why he didn’t, and he is in fact a representative of the agency, and I believe if anyone ought to speak on the issue and try to alleviate the concerns and the fears it ought to be him; but we sit and we wait and lets just see how it plays out,” Matthew said.

ECCO is a copyright management organization responsible for administering the rights of authors, composers and publishers for the use of their music.

It has been registered in Antigua and Barbuda since 2009.

The organization has the power to act on behalf of their members (music owners) and collect monies on their behalf.

Thus, ECCO having just established a country representative after a two-year hiatus, has approached event promoters to notify them of this fee being levied for the playing of copyright music with the requisite permission.

Event promoters have not been receptive to the idea.

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