Belizean Artists tell music users Pay to Play Print E-mail
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Thursday, 30 March 2017 00:00

The Belizean Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (bscAp) held a press conference on Tuesday March 28 to tell anyone who uses Belizean music that in order to play their music they must pay. Started in 2011, and having membership of the big names like Jackie Castillo, Super-G, Ernestine Carballo, Ivan Duran and others, it is just over the past few months that the organization has taken flight and began a public awareness campaign with a simple message ‘Protect music’. And under that theme Belizeans artists are now demanding that those who use their music must pay for it.

Marissa Longsworth, an intellectual property rights attorney practicing in Belize, stated that “this applies to every event promoter, everybody who holds a party, every d.j., every club, restaurant, hotel and so on.” She added that bscAp has the authority to collect on behalf of Belizean artists as well as international artists. She noted that copyright for artists is automatic due to conventions which Belize is signatory to. To use what artists produce, the users must pay she said. She added that as the copyright legislation stands in Belize, there are many infringements and illegal uses of all kinds of copyright in Belize.

It would seem that bscAp is throwing down the gauntlet but its CEO, Shyne Barrow, says that it is a matter of law, if you play it you pay for it. He said that he’s been having meetings with radio operators and other users of music and already there are those who have begun to pay royalties. He noted that already Kremandala has indicated that they will be complying with the copyright act. Love FM and Plus TV, too have confirmed the same. There are now meetings scheduled with other users in the hopes that they come on board. “We are not targeting anyone, it is a matter of law and people need to comply with the law,” stated Barrow. Outside of radio stations, Barrow announced that companies have also not only signed on but have begun to pay royalties. Among these are: Harvest Caye, Scotia Bank, Bowen and Bowen, Fultec, NICH, the office of the Music Ambassador, Brothers Habet and others.

The structure for payment, according to Barrow is a percentage of gross revenue that radio stations take in. In Belize it would be around 4%. For other users like hotels and restaurants it is based on formulas relating to square footage, capacity and other factors. While the 4% is a figure which is an international mark, Barrow agreed that this may place some strain on operators and as such he said bscAp is willing to negotiate but the end game is to share the wealth and give artists an opportunity to earn a living, pay a mortgage. He said that in Belize there are artists that find it difficult to just feed themselves and that, even after they put great work into producing their music.

Asked if the move would not hurt artists in particular because their music needs airtime, Barrow was categorical- “music can exist without radio but radio cannot exist without music.’ He did agree that there is a symbiotic relationship nonetheless and he does not see the move as counterproductive especially because there are those radio stations that are already coming on board. For those who don’t Barrow says the organization if proposing amendments to legislation to avoid litigation. These will include among others not issuing broadcasting licenses if operators are not copyright compliant. Similarly, not issue trade licenses if businesses who use music also do not comply with copyright laws.

For now the move is to educate the users as well as the artists about copyrights and to join bscAp. Barrow said while payments are being made to the organization, at this point it is not nearly enough to cover expenses but when it takes off, those artists, even those who are not members of the organization will benefit as the money collected is theirs. So far there are over one hundred artists that have joined and they will collect royalties on a pro-rated system with 10% of the organization’s income going to its operating expenses.