Trinidad carnival revelers beware: photos could land you in legal limbo


Copyright chief warns revelers that they could be in legal hot water for uploading photos on the Internet of carnival masqueraders

The glittery costumes and elaborate head pieces on display during Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival may be picture perfect but this twin-island nation’s Copyright Collection Organization has warned revelers to watch what they snap.

“If you take those photos and post them on Facebook, what you have done is give someone the option of graphics. They can pull these images and compile them in a magazine, which could then be used for commercial gain,’’ Richard Cornwall, president of the copyright organization, said in an interview with Trinidad’s Newsday newspaper.

“If that could be traced to your website page, you can be held accountable as the source for the act of infringement,” Cornwall said.

But the chairwoman of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Commission said the warning against posting photos of masqueraders and performers on social media sites was extreme.

“That’s beyond our control,” said Allison Demas, reached by phone as the three-day fete wound down Tuesday. “We have to strike a balance; it’s going a little too far.”

However, Cornwall said creative works — from the colorful costumes to the gyrating performances — must be protected and monetized.

The Trinidad and Tobago edict was the second time in recent days that Caribbean authorities had sought a carnival crackdown.

Last week, lead singers of several Haitian bands that penned carnival tunes critical of the government said they were being censored by President Michel Martelly, and prevented from taking part in this year’s carnival in the northern city of Cap-Haitien.

The group Boukman Eksperyans, which had been barred but then reinstated, complained about problems on the parade route Monday night.

Gary Bodeau, a government spokesman, said in a statement that the government “strongly refutes any suggestion that carnival songs or music has been censored. All carnival songs are in play on radio stations without limitation.”

Still, as revelers watched the carnival show on state-owned Haitian television, a message from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security scrolled at the bottom of the screen. It reminded viewers that Haiti’s criminal law “severely punishes defamation, threats and incitement to violence.”

Just as the non-participation of some Haiti bands elicited social media discussions so too did Cornwall’s declaration.

Trinidadians noted on Twitter that even live streaming links were affected by the warning. The Caribbean and diaspora news website, Caribbean Intelligence, also published an article on the crackdown and the broadcasters who feared they could not live stream Trinidad’s carnival without being sued.

Trinidadian journalist Wesley Gibbings, who heads the Association of Caribbean Media Workers, said the issue is worrisome. “There are serious free expression issues tied to these developments,’’ he said. “Sadly, discussions here have tended to focus almost entirely on financial reward and ownership.’’

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