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Launching an Online Music Service in the Caribbean

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Like its people, the music of the Caribbean is uniquely diverse and comprised of a plethora of genres. From Reggae and Calypso to Zouk and Salsa, the quality of the region’s musical offerings reflects the vitality of its people and the warmth of its blue surrounding waters. Owing to the fact that the region is a constituent of the global music industry, which continues on a path of pervasive innovation, Caribbean music entrepreneurs must derive new models for the exploitation of rights and monetization of content. To effectively undertake this task, there must be a clear understanding of the required licenses, key stakeholder organizations and the processes involved in obtaining such licenses.

Step 1: Obtaining a mechanical license

Any online musical endeavor which involves the reproduction of recorded music onto a server, for the purpose of transmission to the public requires a mechanical license for the copying of the song or musical composition. Within the region these licenses can be obtained from the song’s publisher or the representative collective management organization (CMO) of the publisher and/or writer.

Step 2: Obtaining a Performance license

In addition to the mechanical license, online services that make music available to the public may also be required to obtain a performance license. These may include companies involved in webcasting as well as streaming service providers. This license can also be secured through regional CMOs.

Step 3: Obtaining a Synchronization license

Some online music services may wish to combine music with timed visuals, for instance, in the creation of in- stream advertising. For this to be done, a synchronization license must be obtained for the use of the song or musical composition. Similar to the mechanical license this can be done through the song’s publisher or the representative collective management organization (CMO) of the publisher and/or writer.

Step 4: Obtaining sound recording clearance

Before an online music service can legally operate in the region, they must also negotiate and acquire master use licenses for the use of sound- recordings, which are obtained from the owner of the sound recording. In many developed countries, sound recordings are typically owned by record labels. This is also true in the Caribbean region; however because many recordings are financed by independent performers and executive producers, these rights are spread over a multitude of owners and may prove to be a tedious task for rights users. Regional CMOs may be able to render assistance in the acquisition of these rights as a result of their knowledge of the various markets.

Organisations responsible for rights administration

Within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) economic trading bloc, there are four main organizations responsible for the administration of music rights. These are the Copyright Music Organization of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT), the Copyright Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (COSCAP) in Barbados, the Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers Limited (JACAP) and the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organization for Music Rights, Inc (ECCO) which is the representative organization for Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These organizations have reciprocal arrangements with foreign CMOs and are able to administer and manage the rights of foreign writers, composers and music publishers with the Caribbean region, while their members are afforded similar privileges in foreign territories.  In Trinidad and Tobago there are two additional CMOs- the Trinidad and Tobago Copyright Organization (TTCO) and Advancing Writers Entertainers Singers On Music Endeavours, Ltd (AWESOME). These societies represent the interest of niche sectors of the music industry but do not have reciprocal arrangements with foreign societies.