Sunday, April 30, 2006

COPYRIGHT - Time To Understand
By Joseph Guerrero

[Excerpt from April 2006 Amandala News article by Joe Guerrero, President of the Belize Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers]

“You mean to tell me that in addition to paying them to perform I now must pay a
licensing fee?” asked the quintessential Belizean attorney indignantly.

“Yes sir” the visitor to his office answered simply, continuing on and not surprised by the response, “that is exactly what I’m telling you.”. “This is inconceivable to me that I should have to pay a licensing fee after they have already been paid to perform” replied the attorney. He added in a devils advocate manner “ then I simply won’t use them”

This response was also expected it had been heard so many times before that by now the visitor to this prominent Belizean attorney’s office did not even react at the thought of possibly losing one his clients a paying job. The visitor then went on to explain that yes even though the band was being paid to perform a licensing fee for the venue of the event was due from the promoters. This licensing fee it was explained to the apparently stunned attorney is for permission to use the songs at the event. Paying performers at an event it was further explained does not automatically give permission to use the songs.

To use these particular songs at the event the promoter needed to be licensed by Belizean Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (BSCAP). BSCAP is a collective management organization. A collective management organization is an organization which represents many songwriters and intellectual property owners. It makes an agreement with those intellectual property holders to represent them all. They then license the use of these works to interested parties. In this particular case we are talking about songwriters. The significance of the conversation with the attorney will become clearer as this article continues.

Songwriters in Belize have rights under the Belizean Law of Copyright. Belizean law
provides for songwriters and other intellectual property holders, various rights by which they can earn a living from their creations. We should, as a society, not take this lightly. We cannot be dismissive of the rights of Belizean song-writers to earn a living from their creations. In fact we need to encourage this as they are the foremost expressionists of our culture. BSCAP was created to exercise the rights of the songwriters. These rights include the right to reproduce the work in various forms such as printed publication ora sound recording. Secondly, the public performance right. This important right is the focus of this article. Third is the right of broadcasting the work by radio, cable or satellite. Fifth is the right of adaptation of the work such as adapting a novel into a movie. Sixth is the right of distribution. Then there are other rights such as paternal rights or the right to claim ownership of his work. Also among his rights is the right tooppose changes to the work that could negatively effect the authors reputation. This is commonly known as “artistic integrity”.

BSCAP is geared to collecting licensing fees for all Belizean musicians claiming
copyrights of original works. It is currently accepting members and already has among its members the likes of Bredda David, composer Jason Guerrero, Chico Ramos, Supa-G Lloyd and Reckless, arranger Harry “chagu” Thompson, South Blaze, and many others. In short BSCAP has among its repertoire about 90% of original Belizean music. BSCAP will begin licensing users of these works this year. As the attorney said upon learning that licensing fees are appropriate “we simply won’t use them”. This I’m sure will be the very unpatriotic reaction of the users of Belizean music. Namely radio stations and television stations at this time but soon to include hotels, the tourism industry, bars, clubs etc. Are we cutting off our noses to spite our faces? Lets look at the ramification of this type of reaction. Firstly we as a society will appear to have no originality of our own. Secondly, we will continue to show our children that outside culture is more valuable than our own. Thirdly what are the repercussions on our own dignity as an independent nation should we decide not to pay a licensing fee and only use works of foreign artists? I’m sure it will be immeasureable. Soon Belize will have permission to license the works of all foreign artists anyway. This will happen before the year 2006
has passed. When works are performed on the radio stations of Belize without a
licensing fee being paid for their use it is an infringement of copyright. Belize, as a law abiding nation cannot tolerate this any longer. Belize must begin to treat its own creative force with some dignity. Songwriters can make a decent living in Belize despite belief to the contrary. To do this they must be allowed to negotiate with users of their works through BSCAP for a fair settlement for use of their works. An annual licensing fee paid by all users of such works will help to sustain this creativity and the families of these talented people. This is not a new concept. In fact lets look at Belizean artist Chico Ramos, through radio stations world wide paying licensing fees he has made a significant amount of money through the licensing of his songs world wide. China a communist nation seems to have more respect for Chico than Belize does. China pays Chico for the use of his songs on their radio. Mexico is a big market for Belizean music as well. Mexico pays Chico for use of his music on their radio. Why shouldn’t Belize’s radio stations? Why should he risk having his music banned in Belize if he or any other songwriter asks for fair compensation from our radio stations? Lets look at another scenario. Last year while in Belize a commercial on the radio could be heard. It was a commercial for a jewelry store in Belize City. On the commercial it used a song written
and performed by Chico as background music. It was a song called “Married to Ah!” and the radio commercial encouraged buyers to shop at this store for that special engagement ring. “Married to Ah!” was a big hit in Belize. It makes people pay attention to the commercial. The store probably saw an increase in sales. They did not get permission to use that song from the songwriter. They infringed on his copyright as well. They also used the original recording of “Married to Ah!” they also needed permission from the owner of that recording to use it. If Chico does not own the recording they cannot just use it at will. If Chico’s music publisher gave them permission to use the song they would have had to make their own version or also get permission from the owner of the original recording to use that recording.

Hopefully we all have a better idea of the dynamics of copyright ownership and the
ramifications thereof. As long as music is performed in public whether there is a fee involved to the public or not, the venue needs to have a license from BSCAP. BSCAP is a not for profit organization made up of songwriters and music publishers from Belize.

BSCAP represents virtually the entire local repertoire of Belizean songwriters. BSCAP expects to represent the international repertoire including American and Jamaican music and Mexican music within Belize’s borders this year. BSCAP seeks to negotiate a fair agreement with all parties involved.

Of particular interest to radio stations and television stations will be the amount of licensing fee charged. As our website at will tell you, it depends on how the music is being used. Obviously if the music is used to bring in business as in the case of radios, television and clubs etc, then that is one type of fee. Other types of fees are based on use in background as in restaurants or casual bars. Another type of fee would be for associations, political parties, private clubs. Airlines in Belize also need to be licensed as music is used while the airplanes are in Belizean territory. The tourism industry too needs to pay some licensing fees as music is used in many of these businesses. There will be many more applications of licensing fees within Belize. This gives our songwriters an opportunity to earn something from their work. BSCAP should not be feared. Licensing fees will be appropriate and very fair across the board. In some
cases licensing fees will be based on percentage in others it will be a straight fee. In all cases it will be fair. BSCAPs activities will bring legitimacy to Belize and help to decrease copyright infringement and by extension piracy or the unauthorized copying of recorded material.

Application forms to BSCAP may be attained at #8 Ramos Road in Dangriga or at #23m Farbers Road in Belize City. Again our website is located at Our website contains information useful to artists and the users of theirworks. Intellectual property is protected under the current laws of Belize. Its time to understand its applications and use which will only at long last benefit Belizean songwriters.


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