Dominican songwriters can be hopeful that their copyright interests, particularly their Moral Rights, will be protected outside of their home country by diplomatic intervention of the Government of Dominica when these rights are infringed in countries that are signatories to the Berne Convention.
The Berne Convention, which came into force in 1886 and to which Dominica became a party in 1999, is the most important international treaty that addresses international protection of copyright.
Dominica’s Ministry for Trade was swift in acting on behalf of one of Dominica’s most celebrated songwriters whose popular song “Jamais voir ça” was adapted and plagiarized into a Portuguese version titled “Quero Voce” without permission or acknowledgement resulting in sales of over three million copies in Brazil. (Find You Tube versions of both songs below as well as a biography in Wikipedia of the Brazilian singer Carlos Santos)
Warner Chappell Music, one of the largest music publishers in the world with offices in every major city, is the publisher to whom the transferable rights in the song have been assigned. The publishers are currently taking steps to recover damages and other compensation regarding the infringement of the economic rights in the song.
However because the moral rights are inalienable and non-transferable from the author , seeking redress and compensation for infringements of Moral rights remain the sole prerogative of the creator of the work who in this case is Gordon Henderson as lyricist and composer of the song which was first recorded by the group Exile One in 1976.
Dominica’s Minister for Trade, Ian Douglas a lawyer by profession, has been apprised of the matter and felt such a case created an opportunity for the Government to play a diplomatic role in seeking a swift solution of this case of plagiarism which has denied a Dominican citizen his just reward which would redound to the economic benefit of the island and help position Dominican music as a primary contender in the World Music industry.
Matthan Walter, Director of Trade (Ag) in the Ministry for Trade, versed in International Trade and copyright issues, confirmed in January 2016 that the necessary information and advice had been collated and drafted for the attention of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade who is also the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “and for onward transmission to the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs through which diplomatic notes are channeled.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been duly informed of the situation by the Ministry of Trade in line with procedures of the Government of Dominica. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is actively considering the matter to determine how the Ministry can assist in resolving the matter through diplomatic channels with Brazil.
The Ministry for Trade notes that in keeping with its duties and fiduciary responsibilities towards Dominican entrepreneurs engaged in international trade in services and/or goods, recovering such sums for any Dominican copyright owner is good for both the owner of the work and the national economy in much the same way that the United States Government is now actively engaged with Caribbean Governments to stop infringement and non –compensation of United States copyright interests in films and music by Cable operators and broadcasters in the Caribbean region.
According to a source from that Ministry, “Countries of the Caribbean are increasingly concerned about the recognition and development of the creative industries which have been ignored for much too long. Prime Minister Skerrit during the budget address of 2015 had personally embarked on a drive with the musicians promising to begin with an input of half a million dollars. Unfortunately, TS Erika has put a temporary hold on this.”
The Ministry has also declared that it expects this matter to be resolved quickly and amicably since Dominica and Brazil have excellent diplomatic relations and are both members of the Berne Convention and thus recognize “Minimum Standards for copyright legislation” inclusive of moral rights which is a key provision of that Treaty. Additionally as signatories to the Convention both countries have committed to the principle of national treatment which gives Dominica copyright owners the same rights in Brazil as Brazilians and vice-versa.
Gordon Henderson, the central figure of this dispute said, “I have many options, but the diplomatic option serves me well since it allows me to be able to share my successes directly and indirectly with my fellow Dominican citizens.”
Both versions of the song are posted below.