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Do arrangers of pan music seek consent of composers?


THE EDITOR: Are writers of original musical compositions approached by pan arrangers to rearrange their original compositions? If so, are composers compensated from the prize monies won from the Panorama competition?

Customarily, steel pan arrangers choose a piece of existing music, which is further modified and presented as an innovative piece for the Panorama competition. This new musical arrangement, which incorporates the pre-existing composition, is called a “derivative work.”

A derivative work must not be confused with a cover version. In the case of steel pan arrangements, a cover version is a direct interpretation or rendition of an existing composition without substantial alterations to the melody and musical arrangement.

Conversely, as stated above, a derivative work involves significant alterations and changes to an existing musical composition.

Copyright consists of a bundle of rights that grants composers the right to authorise and prohibit certain actions with respect to their original musical compositions.

Included in the list of rights is the right to create derivative works. From this perspective, anyone performing such actions without prior permission is seen as violating a composer’s rights.

This begs question: do pan arrangers obtain authorisation to alter, change, rearrange, and even modify original compositions? Provided this is not a common practice in TT, it does not in any way mean it is permissible.

It would seem the steel pan fraternity has overlooked this fundamental principle for decades without realising the implications of such action.


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Just wondering.... when a jazz musician writes a tune and others come and re-arrange it and re-interpret it and record it and play it in public, do they pay the musician ? I don't think so.  I know jazz is a different musical language/idiom but the principle is the same.

Even more intriguing, a DVD/CD is released every year of the Panorama finals.  Do the bands get any part of this? If they may have to pay for the right to re-arrange the tune, then their arrangement belongs to them and they should be paid for it.  We could go on and on.  Food for thought for COTT and Pan Trinbago.

The point is undoubtedly interesting and I wait to see what COTT will say on it, if anything at all.

Boogsie, pay yuh self !

Denise: You write with SUCH CLARITY and PASSION -- I enjoy reading your postings!!!

It would be nice to see an INCOME and EXPENSE statement from the PANORAMA FINALS DVD/CD as a starting point. But I think that i read somewhere that when the PANORAMA BANDS perform for PAN TRINBAGO all rights are then owned by PAN TRINBAGO.

I believe that the EDUCATION OFFICER in PAN TRINBAGO knows a lot about THIS SUBJECT.

Thanks, Claude(blushing) but I am definitely passionate about pan so it comes through when I write about it.

So now, the bands play a tune they should be paying for, and sell what they do not really own to PAN TRINBAGO? It gets sweeter and sweeter!

I would like to hear from this Education Officer.

With respect to the manufacture of DVDs and CD's the person making /manufacturing these needs to get permission from COTT for the songs on the CD/DVD where COTT administers the right of mechanical reproduction, even where the composer is not a member of COTT . but say, is a member of the French copyright society SACEM/SDRM. The rate COTT charges is 6% of the retail price of the CD/DVD. This money is then split among the songs on the CD/DVD equally. If the CD/DVD has 10 songs and the retail price is TT$100.00 this is what happens:  TT$100 x .06 = TT$6.00 for the 10 songs. Each song is then worth TT$6.00/10 = TT0.6 or 60 cents. If the composer has one song on the Cd/DVD and 1000 cd's are manufactured then he gets via COTT 1000 x TT0.60 = TT600.00. The performers and the arranger would get paid directly by the producer/manufacturer according to the contract they have made. THis would usually be some percentage of the money made from sales. Of course they could also agree for a fixed upfront fee.

The performers on the recording and the producer/manufacturer of the CD/DVD are additionally entitled to receive payments when the recording is used to give public performances directly or indirectly in fetes, shops , banks , broadcast on radio and /or TV etc. COTT will soon start administering that right for record producers and performers on sound recordings. This right is known as neghbouring rights (some times called related rights) The standard split of this money between record producer and performers is 50:50.For a steelband recording where you have many players the 50% for the performers money would be split equally among all the players. Yes indeed music business is quite complicated.

Simple. THe composers just need to use the law. There are a few good copyright lawyers in TT. who would easily get favourable judgements in the court. I know that the person who made the first court case would be considered a pariah, " because not so we does do it", but in the long run other younger composers/ songwriters would look up to him /her as an example. By the way giving permission need not be for pay, the composer is perfectly able to give permission for for free especially if the Band agreed to make it known, by all pan and music lovers that he is the composer of the song that the band is playing. Something like this on the banner: "EXODUS " playing Pan Round de Neck" Compsed by  Mark and John as performed by KES amd arranged by Boogsie Sharp". The composer might well be quite pleased with that and might not ask for any monetary compensation because  he knows that the music loving public knows he is the composer. Composers like recognition like everybody else!!!

An engaging discussion , on a thought provoking topic .. To COTT ah long story short , Pan Trinbago could be asked to consider bearing the cost.  ie; paying all fees to Composers for the rights to perform calypsos , as most bands rely on Pan Trinbago to enter Panorama anyway

There is no alternative as any other avenue of music production for Panorama is either prohibitively expense  or simply beyond the reach of most bands .

As a thesis for a Phd ... Full marks to Mr Fabien Alfonso ... But we are dealing with what has become a part of the cultural experience of Steel Bands and the many who love and cherish the art . The consequences of any deviation from this established tradition , could be unforeseen and even dire .


You can't fit square pegs in round holes, are we thinking GLOBAL or just LOCAL? 

Here's an example of how the game is played between the TECH GIANTS...on which platforms you'll have to ACCESS. Youtube and Facebook don't pay you for all the data it collects on you and sells to other TECH companies or the ads they run on your videos. You have to pay a PREMIUM subscription of $15US monthly for them to remove the ads.

Google to Pay Apple $12 Billion to Remain Safari’s Default Search Engine in 2019: Report https://fortune.com/2018/09/29/google-apple-safari-search-engine/

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Well this TOPIC spurred a lot of intense discussion. But it is ALL THEORETICAL because the issue is polarizing and will never get the support it needs to be implemented. Beyond that, when you look at the CORRUPTION in PAN TRINBAGO and the CORRUPTION in PANORAMA and the CORRUPTION in TUCO and the CORRUPTION in COTT and the CORRUPTION in the NCC -- any SYSTEM that is put in place to bring EQUITY to the COMPOSERS ... is sure to end up CORRUPTED like all the other ORGANIZATIONS.

Nice try MR. FABIEN ALFONSO!!! I sent of copy of this LINK to the EDITOR at NEWSDAY and asked them to assign a reporter to do some research and develop a report on THE TOPIC ... but the more I think about it the more complex the issue becomes.

At the end of the day, in order to implement the provisions of the copyright legislation, artistes/composers or COTT would have to go to Court and  I somehow do not see that happening anytime soon.

The discussion was very lively and thought-provoking but the reality is that unless one day demand is made for payment and payment is not made and the person entitled brings an action in Court on the basis of the Act, it is theoretical, as Claude says.  In any event right now, the relationship between artistes and bands is symbiotic, so I do not think anyone but a one-time wonder looking to milk his lucky streak would go there.

But anything is possible, so maybe one day......in the meantime, to be safe, bands could either write their own tunes or  start looking at tunes that are more than 50 years old because  copyright does not apply to those.

What is the strategic purpose here? 

The musician-artists I know who perform music they have not composed are not concerned about licensing to pay royalties to those who own the music.  That is left to the producers/owners of the venues they perform at. 

Many of the soca-artist who compose tunes for steelbands performing for Panorama Competition usually have the implicit and/or explicit permission to do that.  Most soca-artists seem to continue to enjoy the exposure it brings to the composition in the hopes that in turn, that will generate sales and revenues for them.  Does it make business sense to spend 5$s to collect 10¢. 

So is the reason to encourage or force steelband-arrangers to compose their own Panorama Songs? (c.f. Compositions) 

If the composition of music is duly registered, then who policies it to enforce the rules/laws on behalf of the artists/assignees who own the music?  Who is responsible for collecting, COTT, TTCO or some other entity? 

Again, what is the strategy behind this concern? 

Good Day Ladies and Gentlemen of Steel,

I would like to make a comment on the discussion of copyright and arrangement of copyright protected music by steel band music for live performances and/ or recording. I am not a Trinidadian , but I am quite versed in the intricaicies of copyroght law and its administration. I am from Dominica; I am also not a lawyer. My formal training is in economics, but I have been involvd with the administration of copyrigt in music since 1981 as the agent for PRS, then as the chairman of ECCO with its hQ in St.lucia. I have had occasion to file lawsuitsand/or demand compensation from copyright infringers from at least 30 persons and/or organizations , including Cable and Wireless the BBC as well as the Caribbean Development Bank. The original post was about whether or not an arranger for pan needs to get permission from the composer(s) of the song he wants to arrange for the Panorama competition or other use. Legally the answer is an unambiguous yes. What the arranger does is make an adaptation of the song (music with words). If the composer(s) did not give permision here is what the arranger could face in court:

1. A claim for unauthorized adaptation

2. If the song as played by the Steel Band is also recorded  a second claim for unauthorized reproduction.

3. If the composer(s) is/are sufficiently pissed off a claim for  moral right infringement viz the mutilation of his work.

With respect to composers and/or music publishers taking their compositions to arrangers that is what they are supposed to do as business people - get their music used as much as possible so that they can get maximum royalties directly from the Steel pan especially if they win a prize as well as the Public Performance Royalties through COTT.

From a purely financial perspective the composer(s) might be in discussion with another arranger whom they think would do anexcellent pan arrangement. If some other arranger jumps ahead and arranges their song the arranger of their choice is likely to decline the offer to use their song.

Some years ago my wife wanted to do an adaptation of Shadows ' Dingolay" we negotiated the right to do the adaptation with his lawyer.  Here is a live version of the adapted version with lyrics in French.



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