Copyright Royalty Tribunal Critical

Mr. Kirk Seymour Appointed Chairman of Copyright Royalty Tribunal

February 1st, 2008

Minister of State for Legal Affairs Desmond Bannister presents the new Chairman of the Copyright Royalty Tribunal, Kirkwood Seymour, with his letters of Appointment at the Attorney General's Office, Post Office Building. The Tribunal seeks to uphold the rights of musicians and performing artists in The Bahamas. (BIS Photo/Kristaan Ingraham)

The statutory Copyright Royalty Tribunal, a critical tool in The Bahamas’ intellectual property (IP) regime according to State Minister for Legal Affairs Desmond Bannister, has a new chairman.

The statutory Copyright Royalty Tribunal, a critical tool in The Bahamas’ intellectual property (IP) regime according to State Minister for Legal Affairs Desmond Bannister, has a new chairman.

Mr. Bannister pointed to the increasing importance being placed on intellectual property in the global arena, with some countries doing what amounts to blacklisting other countries with poor or undeveloped intellectual property regimes.

The state minister told the Journal he didn’t think The Bahamas is not in any danger of that sort of reputation.

"I don’t believe there is any possibility that we will be blacklisted, because we have done our work, and we are continuing to do our work and cooperate internationally. I want to make that very clear," he said. "What there is, however, is there are a number of countries that continue to infringe international copyright principles and guidelines."

"The Bahamas has to ensure that we don’t do that type of thing," Mr. Bannister said. "To do that, we have to have organizations like this tribunal that look out for the better interests of those copyright owners and persons who ought to be protected by the copyright laws."

The statutory Copyright Royalty Tribunal, constituted under the Copyright Act, is responsible for royalties that are collected with respect to copyright works.

The tribunal has a statutory duty to collect those royalties and account for them to government, and to assess any claims that are made in respect to copyrights.

Kirkwood Seymour was recently appointed chairman of the body, which also includes accountant James Gomez and architect Stan Burnside.

"This royalty tribunal is critical because they have to collect royalties under the law, they have to maintain those royalties, and where there are appropriate claims they have to review those claims and make the appropriate payments."

Mr. Bannister said he suspected that Bahamian artists will begin making royalty claims at some point, which claims would have to be appropriately assessed prior to payment.

"Right now there are issues where a number of artists have been concerned about how their material is being played and broadcast, issues of consent. These are legal issues that will come to the forefront more and more as we move on."

Mr. Bannister noted that outgoing chairman Lowell Mortimer had done "an amazing amount of work to bring about awareness of our responsibilities in this area (IP)."

The minister reiterated that there are a number of issues The Bahamas has that raise concerns internationally,

"We have a number of issues with respect to Cable Bahamas," he said. "We have a number of issues with respect to Bahamian performers who would wish to seek royalties at some stage. Whatever royalties are owed to them have to be assessed and determined and paid."

"So these are critical issues that have to be addressed by this tribunal."

Mr. Bannister explained that there has to be an IP regime that protects the interests of creators of intellectual property, and also knows what the international standards are and complies with them.

"Our Caribbean area has had some real issues to deal with, with respect to broadcasting of major television programmes by various cable providers within the region. There’s a breakthrough in Trinidad recently but there are still some serious issues that we as a country, and the other countries in the region, have to consider."

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