By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A former Miss Bahamas Universe winner-turned-songstress yesterday increased the pressure on the Ministry of Tourism to "come to the table" by releasing alleged 'evidence' of its copyright violation. Khiara Sherman, who once represented the Bahamas at the global pageant then-controlled by US president, Donald Trump, e-mailed Tribune Business a 12-second video she says shows the Ministry used her song in its paid advertising campaigns.
The video purports to show the use of her song Fly Away With Me in a TV commercial, which features several bikini-clad models splashing around in the clear-blue tropical sea. The Ministry of Tourism's Bahamas logo is visible on the screen, and the commercial ends with the catchphrase 'Find Your Splash Zone'.
The line 'The Islands of the Bahamas' is also present, together with the Ministry of Tourism's logo, the bahamas.com address and contact information. The sound on the clip is patchy, but the words 'Fly Away' can just about be made out.
Ms Sherman and her Texas attorney, in a statement issued yesterday, made clear they were releasing the clip to both back up her copyright breach lawsuit and refute counter-arguments by Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism, that Fly Away With Me was never used in the Ministry's paid advertising campaign.
Mr D'Aguilar could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Ms Sherman and Mr Brown said: "The indisputable video evidence released today shows the Bahamian singer-songwriter's music featured in a commercial which was sanctioned and aired by the Ministry of Tourism without her permission, proving willful copyright infringement.
"Despite Ms Sherman's love of country, the Ministry of Tourism copied Fly Away With Me for use in advertising campaigns without so much as making a phone call to ask for her permission. Although officials reportedly denied use of the song when contacted by the press, a video captured on US television in 2017 proves beyond question that the song was featured in the Ministry of Tourism's paid commercial advertising.
"Prior to filing suit, Ms Sherman's representatives repeatedly reached out to the Ministry of Tourism in hopes of resolving the dispute, but the Ministry of Tourism refused to return their phone calls. Ms Sherman was ultimately forced to initiate legal action in Houston, Texas to protect her intellectual property. Despite further attempts at resolution, the Ministry of Tourism continues to refuse to reach out to her regarding licensing her song."
Mr D'Aguilar had previously told Tribune Business that Ms Sherman had "no valid case", as his officials were adamant that her song was never used in its paid advertising campaigns.
The Fly Away With Me song was featured at Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival in 2015, when it was selected as one of the competition's semi-final entries. Mr D'Aguilar conceded that the song's "further use" by the Carnival's National Festival Committee (BNFC) and other tourism-related agencies had been identified, but the Ministry of Tourism was not involved.
He also refuted Mrs Sherman's claim that the Ministry, prior to his arrival as minister, breached "a binding" three-year employment contract with her worth almost $130,000, refusing to accept her work and "failing to make any" of the due payments.
Mr D'Aguilar said the Ministry of Tourism's position was that "no contract was ever signed" with Mrs Sherman, who held the Miss Universe Bahamas title in 2009-2010, and alleged that she only showed "a clear desire" to agree terms when the offer was withdrawn.
Responding yesterday, Ms Sherman and her attorney countered: "Ms Sherman believes she should be treated fairly under the rights granted to her as the creator of the song Fly Away With Me, and the Ministry should not take advantage of local artists and their art form.
"Ms Sherman cannot be a spokesperson for the many local artists who do not receive their dues, but she hopes local artists will be empowered from her example to take action, and take steps to protect their creations..... Ms Sherman continues to hope that the Ministry will come to the table, treat her fairly and do the right thing."
They added that the former Miss Bahamas Universe had also performed for the Ministry of Tourism at numerous 2016 marketing and promotional events in Dallas, Houston and Washington D. C.