Local News

Feb 26, 2017

Streaming and Intellectual Property

By Regan Asgarali

The Intellectual Property Office of Trinidad and Tobago (IPO) is compelled to respond to the recent debate on live streaming and to hopefully end the conjecture. In today's modern digital world, live streaming apps and facilities like Facebook live have become extremely popular.

These apps allow users to potentially stream live events using their platform. The right to stream live however is not a free for all or a carte blanche right. This technology has raised a host of legal issues, primarily in the areas of copyright infringement.

The IPO advises the public to read the fine print found on the user agreements of the apps before they think about streaming live events.

These apps clearly ban users from posting content that violates others’ copyright and trademark, in their standard Terms of Service, however these warnings are often ignored. Further, and even in the absence of any such terms, the local laws of Trinidad & Tobago prohibit such live streaming.

Anyone rebroadcasting an entire live simulcast is committing copyright infringement and can be subject to substantial fines. It matters not whether you are doing it for “for money or for love". There is no distinction at law.

Additionally, Trinidad and Tobago is not a "baby steps "or outdated nation with respect to intellectual property laws. Trinidad and Tobago possesses some of the most updated copyright and generally IP laws in the Caribbean and measures up right along with other world nations. The internet is not immune to our laws. Nor are we "different "to other countries.

There is an international legal framework which has to some degree harmonized laws of countries. Examples of treaties whose provisions are in place in our national copyright act and other IP legislation includes the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works 1886 and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property 1883. There are also modern treaties that also speak to trade included such as the agreement on Trade - Related IP Rights (called TRIPS) under the World Trade Organization ( WTO).

Specifically we are also members of the two WIPO (a specialist UN body on IP ) treaties that govern mutual IP law minimum protection and enforcement requirements that were designed to strengthen copyright protections on the internet. These are the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performers and Producers Rights Treaty (WPPT) of 1996. These are the main international treaties that addresses copyright and related rights on the internet. These treaties are still very relevant today.

A quick glance at IPO.gov.tt provides a plethora of information on intellectual property from collective management of music to franchising and branding and copyright. The public and other agencies are encouraged to utilize this site as an authoritative source of information and to engage the Intellectual Property Office on IP issues. We are also on Facebook via ipotrinbago and yes we even tweet.

Upcoming events and activities are also posted on our medium and through the corporate communications department of the AGLA.

So back to streaming.

The best approach in determining whether your broadcast is violating copyright law is to simply use your common sense. If you paid to enter a venue and watch the content, that content is likely protected by copyright. Good examples include If you live stream an entire movie in the theater, or you are at a music concert for example, you are likely violating copyright law by streaming the event for others to "take a view ". Similarly, live streaming a concert would likely expose you to copyright liability. Even broadcasting live sporting events carries significant legal risks as networks pay large sums of money for the exclusive right to broadcast games live.

Facebook live and other streaming apps are great tools but please read the fine print, and take heed of our domestic IP laws, to ensure that you are using it wisely and not infringing on the rights of others.

Regan Asgarali

Acting Controller

Intellectual Property Office





Copyright © Intellectual Property Office 2016.
All rights reserved.

Criminal penalties for Intellectual Property Rights Infringement


Maximum Penalty (TT Dollars)

Copyright and Related Rights incl. databases

$250,000.00 or ten years imprisonment (summary conviction)

Topography of Integrated Circuits

$10,000.00 or 5 years imprisonment (summary conviction)

Trade Mark (incl. company names represented in a special or particular manner)

$10,000.00 or 6 months imprisonment (summary conviction); $40,000.00 or 10 years imprisonment (indictment)

Industrial Design

$10,000.00 or ten years imprisonment (summary conviction)

Patent and Utility Model

$10,000.00 (summary conviction).

Falsification of patent register: $20,000.00 (summary conviction) or $40,000.00 or ten years imprisonment (indictment)

Geographical Indications

$8,000.00 or three years imprisonment (summary conviction)

Plant Variety

$10,000.00 (summary conviction)

Unauthorised claim of patent rights

$10,000.00 (summary conviction)

Unauthorised claim that a patent has been applied for

$10,000.00 (summary conviction)


The Copyright Infringement Ship

Piracy Ship

Click here to download image.



Piracy occurs when any of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights are violated.

Note 14 of the TRIPS Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) provides the following interpretation:

(a) “counterfeit trademark goods” shall mean any goods, including packaging, bearing without authorization a trademark which is identical to the trademark validly registered in respect of such goods, or which cannot be distinguished in its essential aspects from such a trademark, and which thereby infringes the rights of the owner of the trademark in question under the law of the country of importation;

(b) “pirated copyright goods” shall mean any goods which are copies made without the consent of the right holder or person duly authorized by the right holder in the country of production and which are made directly or indirectly from an article where the making of that copy would have constituted an infringement of a copyright or a related right under the law of the country of importation.

The maximum penalty for copyright infringement is $250,000 or ten years imprisonment. The above pirate ship illustrates some common examples of piracy.