Zorce on accreditation

A letter from Zorce boss Narend Sooknarine about his experiences applying for
Narend Sooknarine of Zorce allowed me to reproduce his statement on the experience he had last week when he tried to be accredited to cover Carnival 2014. The statement is reproduced here as a reference for BitDepth 924.

For at least the last six years Zorce Publications Ltd. has successfully sought accreditation to shoot still photos for archive use on the internet. Prior to this we were not aware of the accreditation process.

On February 11th, around 2pm, we came to the NCC office to meet the usual pleasant and familiar people to apply once more for our accreditation. We filled out the NCC forms, indicating that we would like to shoot photos of Mas and Pan.

Since the NCBA representative was present, a lady that we are accustomed to seeing each year for our interview, we proceeded with reading through this year's NCBA application form. The NCBA lady recalled that Zorce was on a list of companies that were to be told this year that no internet-related permissions would be allowed. She clarified that this meant no social media (e.g. Facebook), no websites or no web-streaming of any photos or video. She conveyed that she was told to let everyone on the list, which was presumably every entity that was internet accredited last year was to be told the same except one company that bought the exclusive rights this year from the NCBA.

I asked her if she was sure and she mentioned that it was all discussed at a meeting earlier that morning, and that Zorce was on that list. She then called the NCBA office and verified that this was in fact so. So I told her that we had only planned to pay for internet accreditation since I knew that print options were far more expensive. She calmly said "Well, it looks like this is the end..."

I asked about the remaining options of private archiving and print media. At this point I invited my fellow photographer Mr. Devi Nath to hear the news. In the meantime, she asked a few questions about the magazine's distribution, checked her charts and calculated the print fees to be around TT$20,000, while the private archive option would cost TT$6,000.

I asked her if we would be allowed to place photos on our personal websites or on Facebook if we took the option of personal archive and was told that it would not be possible since the private archive option was simply for your private use. I used an example asking if we could show our pictures using our laptops or on a screen at home or a private viewing and she said yes.

I explained to her that to fund a print magazine project I would need to raise a minimum of TT$120,000-150,000 inclusive of their fees and that it would be unreasonable to do this in just three weeks. I also explained that it would be a challenge to make arrangements with a printer to work on the Carnival days to have such a book ready shortly after Carnival.

I added that this kind of project should have ideally been planned from the year before when companies are formulating their marketing budgets; and that there were already a number of printed Carnival Magazines on the market and we had no desire to directly compete with these.

Lastly I reminded her that being a car-related publication and website, we fundamentally thought that it would be a good idea to promote T&T by inviting our web users to view our online archives and subsequently our social media albums; with the hope of attracting a different sector of tourists along with our regular readers.

She indicated that while she understood our position clearly, and she knows us from processing our permissions each year, she could only abide by the instructions she was given and suggested that anyone who wished to take the issue further could speak with the CEO of the NCBA.

After this Mr. Rainier Lange of Trinistars.com also came over and was being filled in on the current NCBA position.  Rainier and the NCBA representative began to discuss the issue and eventually another familiar lady from the NCC office joined the discussion in which tempers remained mild and occasionally some humour was shared.

Highlights included:
• The question of: Who is the mystery person or organisation who was the exclusive right to internet related Carnival 2014 Mas content through the NCBA?
• Clarification on what exactly is being paid for with respect to copyright fees with NCBA?
• More of the larger and more popular bands are registered with the NCDF and apparently the TTCO is taking responsibility for securing their copyright fees, according to usage of content etc.
• Clarification on exactly who the NCBA now represents/protects?
• What do the NCBA-protected gain?
• Can the NCBA assume control over an independently owned portal such as Facebook or the entire internet?
• What about tourists or simple amateur public photographers seeking to enjoy the event in their own non-commercial way?

So this year's question seems to be:
• If a photographer or media producer has the direct permission of (a) band/bands via a signed, stamped letter from their bandleader(s) to put their content in an approved location inclusive of any specified print medium, website or social media outlet and/or permission via the TTCO, where does the NCC stand on granting accreditation passes that indicate permission to shoot Mas?

Rainier also shared an experience form last year where he was publicly humiliated on the stage, cursed and told to remove himself from the stage by the boss at NCBA.

While we were certainly not aware of the dynamics of the relationship between the NCBA, the NCDF and their respective memberships, this year's experience is forcing us to find out. Quite frankly for most photographers who are seeking to "do the correct thing" this is proving to be unreasonable.

While no one has ever challenged the validity of our passes on the stage, Luis Hart indicated on the road to at least two of our Zorce photographers that we did not have permission to shoot his band, while at the same time letting two of our other photographers continue freely. While it was VERY confusing at the time since we all had proper NCC badges, this situation seems to explain what he was trying to say in the heat of the moment at Carnival 2013.

Indirectly, it seems the NCC accreditation badge does not fully cover all permissions for all venues at this time since the NCBA does not represent many of the large and popular bands that form the bulk of our Carnival content.

I recall going to the NCC offices years ago, along with Mr. Devi Nath and paying copyright fees to both the NCBA and the NCDF. Eventually one year they told us that the two now came under one umbrella, the NCBA and that we only needed to pay one set of fees. Since learning of the accreditation process, we have always followed instructions as per NCC guidelines.

I hope this sheds some light on the situation. We plan to be in touch with the TTCO as well and the respective bandleaders of the bands covered by the NCDF, then back to the NCC to examine our options.

best regards,
Narend Sooknarine
Zorce Publications Ltd.

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