By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Ministry of Tourism has broken its silence to say it "is dismayed" by its protracted copyright battle with ex-beauty queen-turned songstress, Khiara Sherman, pictured, in the Texas court.
Defending its position, the ministry said in a statement released over the weekend: "We take our mission to promote our destination, our culture and our artists very seriously and work diligently to do so in a variety of ways.
"Our work with the Bahamas National Festival Commission to market Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival was an important project which we supported. Our hope was to generate interest in the festival, but also greater awareness of Bahamian artists who participated in the Music Masters competition.
"Our actions were appropriate and in full compliance with the contest rules, and we are confident that the appropriateness of our actions and the benefits they provide to all artists will be recognised by the court."
It is unclear why the Ministry of Tourism has chosen to speak out now outside the court process, but it is likely related to Ms Sherman's allegations that it violated the copyright of other artists by using their songs without permission in commercials promoting The Bahamas to potential tourists.
Ms Sherman, in legal filings with the south Texas federal court that were revealed by Tribune Business on November 6, accused the ministry of flagrantly abusing" Bahamian singers with a "take what we want, don't pay and deny" approach to paying for use of their songs.
She alleged that her ongoing claim had exposed "a pattern and practice" where the Ministry of Tourism has failed to pay multiple local artists for use of their intellectual property.
Other impacted Bahamian singers, according to the documents, include Angelique Sabrina, who performs the National Anthem on NB12 at midnight every night, and Sketch Carey.
Ms Sherman and her record company, AK Fortyseven Records, claim that the legal discovery process over their claim resulted in the Ministry of Tourism admitting it had no licensing deal or other agreement in place allowing it to use these artists' songs in its promotional campaigns that market The Bahamas to the world.
"Discovery in this case has revealed the ministry's acts of infringement were part of a pattern and practice of flagrantly abusing the intellectual property of Bahamian artists like Ms Sherman," the former beauty queen and her attorneys alleged.
"The ministry has featured songs of multiple other local artists in its advertising campaigns. For instance, the advertisements produced in this case feature not only Fly Away With Me by Khiara Sherman, but also music by Sketch Carey and Angelique Sabrina, other prominent Bahamian artists.
"In its discovery responses, the ministry has admitted that it has no licensing agreements authorising the use of these or any other works in its advertising campaigns. Further, the ministry has expressly denied entering into a single license for any musical work for any television or radio advertisement in the United States in the last five years with anyone, despite the fact that it has engaged in extensive advertising which features music and sound recordings of several different artists," Ms Sherman's revised October 31, 2018, lawsuit continues.
"The ministry's specific denial of having entered into any such license is reflective of an entity that has engaged in willful, flagrant, and repeated infringement of intellectual property rights. When this issue was first raised, the ministry accused Ms Sherman of fabricating the existence of the infringing works and threatened to file sanctions against her and her counsel upon the filing of this suit.
"The ministry's philosophy with regard to the intellectual property of singers, songwriters, musicians and composers can best be summed up as 'we'll take what we want, we won't pay for it, and then deny it ever happened'."
The Ministry of Tourism's previous defences to Ms Sherman's claims have cited multiple grounds for rejecting her case.
It has previously argued that Ms Sherman's deal with the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival organisers protected it from her copyright violation lawsuit, as this purportedly released the Bahamas National Festival Commission and its sponsors - which included the Ministry of Tourism - from any copyright infringement liability over the use of her Fly Away With Me track.
This argument, though, was rejected by the Texas courts.