A Facebook profile under the name of Theresa Coutain live streamed the entire event, much to the delight of people who either could not or did not want to pay the $300, $600 and $1,200 ticket prices. Some grateful virtual attendees have even taken to calling her Saint Theresa.
Live streaming events has now acquired social cachet as Carnival lovers compete to show all those watching, that they were there, front and centre, at the season’s priciest and most exclusive events.
But they don’t usually live stream entire events.
The Machel Monday concert is not the only Carnival 2017 event to have been broadcast to audiences in this manner, presenting new challenges to performers, promoters and even audience members themselves.
For one thing, is the live streamer breaking any laws? For another, performers and promoters rely on ticket receipts to get paid, as well as money accrued from broadcast rights for live performances. How do they deal with live streamers broadcasting a show free of charge to people who might have otherwise bought a ticket?
Nigel Trancoso, an intellectual property law attorney told Business Day that as long as streamers like Coutain are not profiting, or live stream without the intent to, then they are basically outside the ambit of the law.
“One of the issues that arises here is if the person who is going live is receiving any monetary compensation for it,” said Trancoso. “Because it makes no sense going after somebody who doesn’t have the money to pay if they are infringing on intellectual property rights, and this is an intellectual property matter.”
“What I would advise the promoter to do is to write her and let her know what are the intellectual property issues involved and what are some of the neighbouring rights that performers, composer and authors have as the owners of the work. I would also advise that they point out the moral issues surrounding the streaming.”
Beyond issuing this letter though, there isn’t much the performer or the promoter can do because Coutain has not actually infringed on any intellectual property rights.
Trancoso said as long as the streamer acted out of a love of culture and a desire to put it on display for the world, then under the current system, there are no legal consequences. The burden of proof that harm had been done to the event lies with the promoter.
“Next year people may not want to go to the show because they expect that it will go live,” said the intellectual property attorney. “If Machel, or the promoter, sees a reduction and can prove a causal link between the streaming live and a reduction in the patronage, then, they will have an issue that they can argue in court.”
The situation, said Trancoso, is one that is going to become increasingly common as technology outstrips the law’s ability to play catch up. The effects of this will be worse in Trinidad and Tobago he said, because we have now only just begun to put basic copyright provisions in place.
“The world is changing and things that could not have happened five years ago can occur. We have not been where the rest of the world has in terms of intellectual property law. While the rest of the world is evolving and changing and intellectual property law seems to be one of the fastest growth areas in law and business, we have finally started to take baby steps and things are changing on us again,” Trancoso said.
The attorney, who is completing his doctorate in Business Administration with an emphasis in intellectual property law, said IP rights can fuel our economy.
“In 2015, the US government made $5.5 trillion through intellectual property and created 45,000 jobs.”
“We have a Carnival that is not like others in this world,” said Trancoso.
Yet, he said, this country continues to not capitalise on the things that we create. He gave a few examples including the rights to costume likenesses of the much loved Tan Tan and Saga Boy, which he said designer Minshall failed to protect.
Trancoso said laws should be amended and the NCC given more teeth to protect the intellectual property rights of TT’s Carnival.