Local artist supports ECCO

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The ongoing discourse surrounding the copyright tariff imposed by the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organisation for Music Rights (ECCO) Inc. may easily create a divide between individuals for and against the idea.

Yesterday, while discussing the ‘fee’ on OBSERVER AM, a local singer, songwriter and entertainer voiced his opinion which seems to be contrary to popular opinion.

“As Ms. [Vanesta] Mortley [CEO of ECCO] pointed out earlier, all of these Performing Rights Organizations or PROs as they are called, have like a reciprocal agreement with each other via the World Intellectual Property Organization…so it’s like PRO’s collect on your behalf. So like now, I as a member of ASCAP [American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers] I’m still directly or indirectly affected by collections done by ECCO because my songs are being played here in Antigua or around the Caribbean. ECCO will collect on my behalf so they’ll pay to ASCAP and then ASCAP will [pay me],” an artist that goes by the name of Zambai said.

ECCO is a copyright management organisation, which has been registered in Antigua since 2009, and is responsible for administering the rights of authors, composers and publishers for the use of their music.

Members of ECCO or similar organisations have transferred their rights to these institutions to act on behalf of the music owner.

Zambai said he has received royalties in the past and having been privy to the benefits, he has an appreciation for the idea of the owners of the music being compensated for their creativity.

On the other hand, a popular promoter questioned the timing of a 5 percent fee being imposed by ECCO, which he said is comparatively high.

Event promoter, Chalita Rose spoke on behalf of other promoters claiming that most event organisers were not cognisant of the fee when finalising their budget.

 “I don’t know how you guys operate at ECCO but we would have sat down and set our budget a year in advance so there is no way we can accept your 5 percent. Just putting that there now. My event in particular, if I was to print 8,000 tickets at $50 — which they are not at $50 — you are telling me that I will have to pay $2,500 at every 1,000 tickets. I’m not sure where you think we have that money putting down but under no circumstance can any promoter — and I think I can speak for them all — has that money sitting down to give to ECCO after they come to us at the twenty-third hour,” Rose said decisively.

Rose is also questioning the integrity of the copyright management organisation following a widely circulated report regarding the dismissal of its Chief Executive Officer, after an investigation into the financial operation of the organisation.

He said: “We have read reports online which clearly outline that there are issues with ECCO. You recently had to dismiss your chief executive officer with issues around funds not being able to pay out to your members and you guys posting a video stating that. So, we are not sure who you are, we are paying you this money. The local rep here, you guys have issues; it is alleged that you would have contacted one of our promoters or someone from the organisation and said to disregard what the local rep has said here and know that they are going to come back to us as to the next step. So, who should we really look to in terms of your organisation?”

He spoke in reference to a 2017 news article which also detailed that ECCO was unable to make any payments of royalties to its members scheduled for the final quarter of that year.

He also made reference to a World Trade Organization ruling, which he said gives Antigua and Barbuda the right to play copyright music.

Rose said that organisers in Antigua have done their research and will be seeking further advice going forward.

Just days earlier, the Minister of National Festivals, Daryll Matthew, requested that Bernard De Nully — who is the agent for ECCO in Antigua – “clear the air and explain the rationale and position of the organisation that he represents.”

And on Monday, officials from ECCO came forward and provided details on their copyright royalty.

However, the affected parties are still not satisfied with the explanation provided.

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