An article posted to BBC’s website yesterday, has highlighted issues of piracy in the twin-island republic of Trinidad & Tobago. The article stated that physical music releases on CD’s are bought from ‘street-corner pirate vendors’ making the few few remaining legitimate record shops deeply frustrated.

“They’re hardly putting anything out nowadays,” sighs the shop assistant at Crosby’s Music Centre in the capital, Port of Spain.

In past years, the store was the essential place to pick up the latest local sounds, for locals and visitors alike.

Now its shelves are dominated by greatest hits collections by veteran artists such as the Mighty Sparrow and David Rudder, who still frequently pack concert halls at home and abroad.

If you want to hear something more recent, however, you’ll have to step outside and track down one of the country’s many music pirates.

In two of the island’s biggest cities, Port of Spain and Arima, vendors can easily be found peddling illegal CDs from carts parked on street-corner pavements.

And the pirate music sellers have adapted to changing times more effectively than the shops have.

“You have a [USB] stick?” asks one vendor, before whipping out a Sony Vaio laptop loaded with a huge library of MP3 music files.

In addition to selling regular music CDs for 20 local dollars each (£2; $3.15), he also burns MP3s to CD while you wait, as well as transferring music to mobile phones and other devices.

Tougher laws
Of course, pirate CDs have been on sale in Trinidad and Tobago for many years.

When I previously reported on the subject in 2008, efforts were being made to toughen up the country’s copyright law. My story was even quoted in more than one parliamentary debate there.

Ironically, the article itself was pirated and reprinted without permission by certain Trinidad newspapers.

The potential punishment for music piracy ought to give the illegal CD vendors pause for thought. Each count of copyright violation now carries a maximum fine of 250,000 local dollars (£25,100; $39,400) plus 10 years’ imprisonment.

But although the penalties have been increased, the law is still being widely flouted.