The National Seminar on Copyright in the Carnival Industry

Unfortunately I was not allowed to take photos inside the seminar room, but here is a photo of the programme

Unfortunately I was not allowed to take photos inside the seminar room, but here is a photo of the programme

Yesterday I attended the National Seminar on Copyright in the Carnival Industry in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Honestly I didn’t know what to expect considering that the government of Trinidad and Tobago has not made any headway in negotiations with the World Intellectual Property Organization to recognize the terminology works of mas, which encompasses carnival arts, performances and song, as Traditional Cultural Expressions. However, yesterday’s seminar not only demonstrated how important the protection of works of mas is to Trinidadians, regardless of the lack of international support, but also conveying the ritualization of bureaucracy.

The World Intellectual Property Organization and the Ministry of Legal Affairs and the National Carnival Commission organized the seminar. It began at 9:00am with a lecture on international copyright laws given by Jorgen Blomqvet, a professor in Intellectual Copyright at the University of Copenhagen. Afterwards, Daniel Campeño Quieroz, an intellectual property lawyer from Brazil gave a presentation on the use of copyrights in Rio de Janeiro’s carnival. During the Q&A session, many people raised questions concerning the privatization of Rio’s carnival and the royalties paid to musicians and designers. The audience that compromised a few old cultural activists, musicians, designers, and a large number of government officials, members of carnival organizations, and lawyers who appeared dissatisfied with the seminar. They were asking for solutions to the lack of copyright protection for works of mas. Mr. Quieroz became  overwhelmed by the questions being asked. Suddenly, an older woman in the audience shouted, “thanks for coming to talk to us. We Trinidadians have to learn to communicate with the world. We must speak Spanish, Portuguese, and French!” She then proceeded to translate in Spanish. Eventually, the moderator of the seminar had to intervene and suspend the Q&A session.

After a 20 minute lunch break, Blomqvet began his final presentation on the establishment of a sus generis framework for the protection of works of mas. Addressing the importance of collective copyright management and how conflict between copyright societies makes it impossible to achieve national and international protection for works of mas. This invoked a debate amongst representatives of both the Copyright Organization of Music of Trinidad and Tobago and the Trinidad Collecting Copyright organization concerning the lack of cooperation between both collecting societies. At the end of the presentation Blomqvet stated, “I love Trinidad and Tobago, which is why I always return here. If my mission was to create a debate, then I have succeeded.” Everyone broke out into laughter.

The seminar created a moment of disjuncture within the vertical relationships between the state, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the “public.” At times enforcing dialogue and contestation, but no resolutions. Never mind that no framework has been established for the protection of works of mas, or that there is no consensus amongst lawyers, government officials and cultural advocates regarding how works of mas will be implemented into carnival. Rather what we must question is whether the objective was to exemplify the power and pomp of the state and or Trinidadians divine right to carnival? Or was it to show the World Intellectual Property Organization that they posses no power within the republic?

Posted by Zaira Simone – MA Candidate at CLACS

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