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COPYRIGHT AND ECCO – THE SAGA CONTINUES

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According to an ECCO release immediately following the October 24th Board meeting, the Chairman Mr. Shayne Ross was replaced by Mr. Martin James and ECCO’s CEO Steve Etienne was sent on a 30-day leave

On Tuesday October 24th, 2017, information from Castries, St. Lucia started to circulate about a major shake-up within the administrative structure of the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organization for Music Rights.

The news, while surprising at the time, was not completely unexpected.  Over the past five years or so the local operations of ECCO and its associates here in Grenada have come into question. And more so since the Director here in Grenada has been very silent about ECCO and the former collections Agent was extremely defensive and devoid of any sense of responsibility to account for monies that were being collected in the name of Artistes to be redistributed to said Artistes.

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According to an ECCO release immediately following the October 24th Board meeting, the Chairman Mr. Shayne Ross was replaced by Mr. Martin James and ECCO’s CEO Steve Etienne was sent on a 30-day leave, with immediate effect while ECCO tried to, “acquire credible information that would best inform its decisions and put modified procedures in place to improve the efficiency of the systems at ECCO.”

One can reasonably assume that part of the modifications would have to be the yet to be accounted for collections in Grenada and other OECS territories, the lack of payments to Members of ECCO, whose names and musical works ECCO uses to collect monies.

Most of those collections here in Grenada were done with Ms. Linda Straker as the collections Agent for ECCO. Promoters have been tormented, business threatened and even this author was the recipient of two lawyer letters, one on behalf of Ms. Straker (for defamation of character) and one from ECCO demanding I cease and desist from publishing anything further about ECCO.

My contention was always about the fair and equitable distribution of funds to the members of ECCO, funds that were collected from businesses and businessmen with the expectation that the ultimate beneficiaries will be the owners of the rights of the works used.

To date ECCO’s local membership remains under 50 a clear indication of the lack of effort to effectively educate the hundreds of creators of music about the necessity to have one’s music properly protected and the direct benefits of those procedures.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been collected by EECO over the past five years or so and distributions here in Grenada have amounted to almost nil.

During ECCO’s elections last year for new Directors the local membership were handed out checks of $250 each an insult not only to those who collected the checks but to those who have made the payments believing they were doing the right thing.

The Artistes and Creators themselves have to accept a great deal of the blame for allowing this corruption to fester while their works were manipulated and used to the benefit of others.

It is still puzzling the extent to which not only Grenadian Artistes but Regional Artistes continue to ignore the principles of business associated with music production and creation, but still speak of making it “big”

If there is not a mechanism here at home to properly register your work and then collect what you have earned, even if it is not a substantial amount, then it means you are not prepared for “bigness”. The fact that our music remains “local”, played to a local audience even in the Diaspora has more to do with the attitude and lack of knowledge and education of local creators.

One can remain hopeful that once the ECCO debacle is cleared up and the extent of the corruption reveled then, the creators will take a more keen interest in what essentially should be their retirement fund.

We wait to hear from St. Lucia the outcome of the ongoing investigations, which would hopefully include accounting for monies collected and payments to those who are owed.

It would be interesting to see if any of the members of ECCO, whether individually or as a group will be prepared to seek legal recourse if the results of the investigations are not satisfactory.

The figure here in Grenada of monies collected are well documented, Grenada still has representation on the Board of Directors. It is time to ask the tough questions, demand straight and honest answers and ultimately have ECCO account to those it has undertaken to represent.

This is not a Dexter Mitchell issue; this is the future of the local music industry. If ECCO fails it means copyright and intellectual property rights etc. related to music might be setback for another generation or so while our Artistes, creators and producers will have to depend on meager offerings of the festive season and other seasonal gigs.

For the Artistes it is your future, it is your work, it is your money; speak now or you will forever have to hold your peace.

 

Dexter Mitchell

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