Copyright laws: Changing the channel in Cayman

The ringing in of the New Year signaled an adieu to one of the minor quirks of popular culture in the Cayman Islands: Our local television station’s arrangement to air content from U.S. network CBS.

The changes that regular viewers will notice may prove to be a harbinger of things to come if lawmakers follow through this year with local legislation mirroring the U.K.’s Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

Randy Merren, CEO of Cayman 27 owner Hurley’s Media, said the station is making immediate changes to its prime time programming lineup in an effort to comply with anticipated copyright and intellectual property laws. According to Mr. Merren, Hurley’s Media inherited a broadcast agreement with CBS from previous owners Logic (from whom Hurley’s bought the channel last year), but that agreement did not cover prime time shows, and also expired on Dec. 31.

As we reported in yesterday’s Compass, Mr. Merren said there would have to be “sweeping changes” to Island 24 and Cayman 27’s entertainment programming because much of what is currently aired is licensed by other cable channels in the region.

What does that mean for Cayman residents? In brief, potential changes in viewing habits. Hurley’s Media is dealing with its content gap by providing additional content, both old and new – in the form of reruns of classic shows such as “I Love Lucy,” “Bonanza” and “Cheers,” evening broadcasts of contemporary shows such as “Madam Secretary” and “CSI Miami,” and expanded original programming, including new talk shows and local news reports.

We will not comment on the decisions being made by Hurley’s Media, other than to observe that TV providers in Cayman have for a long time aired content under special arrangements with international companies … or, at times, apparently in the absence of such arrangements.

For example, in 2013, HBO filed a complaint with Cayman’s telecom regulator, accusing WestStar of intercepting U.S. satellite transmissions and “unethically” broadcasting HBO channels to subscribers. The dispute was resolved in fall of 2014 after WestStar was bought by Logic, which had an existing agreement with HBO Latin America. At the time the complaint was filed, WestStar executives didn’t deny HBO’s allegations, but said the issue of programming in the region was “complex.”

On its face, it seems to us that the recent actions taken by Hurley’s Media constitute a good faith attempt to navigate the complexities of Cayman’s TV market, while respecting the rights of overseas content providers and anticipating new local laws.

In a broader sense, the changes at Cayman 27 also appear to be a sign of the country’s maturation. On the flip side is, for example, the continuing existence of video stores in Cayman whose inventories consist of movies that have been downloaded from the Internet and burned onto discs.

While plenty of local consumers have no doubt enjoyed being able to purchase “new releases” at bargain prices, the widespread availability of cheap “bootleg” entertainment products is a hallmark of a third-world jurisdiction – not the first-world country which Cayman aspires to be.

And so it is with the future development of Cayman in mind that we will assess the implementation of copyright protections. In order for such laws to be successful, and to encourage rather than suppress free and fair competition, the government must ensure that those regulations are enforced in a uniform and universal manner.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now


  1. Ignoring the ethical issues the bootleg dvds are usually of poor quality. A result of them being filmed on a hand video recorder in a movie theater.

    We cut the cable cord several years ago due to the high cost and poor selection and now rely on an Apple TV box and Netflix.

  2. TV in Cayman is taking a turn for the worse. All we are going to end up with is reruns of Hogans Heros and I Love Lucy.

    Cable is going to change; satellite will need to go……ugh I am going to have to start reading books……..

    Or our MLAs could do something about this!