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French Connection - Millions in unclaimed royalties in France

Cecelia Campbell-Livingston
Thursday, August 09, 2012

THERE are millions of dollars in unclaimed royalties for Jamaican artistes in France, says Michael 'Ibo' Cooper, former member of the Third World band. He disclosed this during Jubilee Conversations: The Origin of Jamaican Music, which was held last Friday during Jubilee Village, at the National Stadium.

Responding to an audience member about the difficulties Jamaican artistes face when collecting royalties, Cooper said even he is still owed by "a certain producer".

He explained that in France where Jamaican music has sold strongly since the 1970s, record companies owe reggae artistes a lot of money. This happened because those artistes did not have any understanding of intellectual property rights.

Lack of proper registration is cited as the main reason for these monies being tied up.

Cooper said when it came to knowledge of the music business, many countries were ahead of Jamaicans. He added that many local musicians are still in the dark.

"From keyboard player to the singer, everyone who worked on that record, money is due to them," Cooper told the Jamaica Observer following the forum.

"Agencies that collect these monies will not turn it over unless there is proper documentation. You have to know who played what, when... Until then, money on hold is in an escrow account," he stated.

Under a statute of limitation, Cooper went on, these funds will eventually go to the cultural foundation of France. Ultimately, it is used to source programmes such as music schools in that country.

"So, while Jamaican schools struggle for musical equipment, thanks to those unclaimed monies the French cultural programme gets a boost," he said.

Pioneer singer Derrick Harriott says he is among the artistes French companies owe money. While acknowledging that some Jamaican artistes were paid royalties through the initiation of a French lawyer, in the 1990s, Harriott said the performers need assistance to recoup royalties.

He is appealing to the minister of culture to "look into the matter big time".

He went on: "They would have more clout. One person could do it, but it would cost too much."

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