Bulgarian Public Radio Forbidden To Play 14 Million Pieces Of Music By Copyright Collection Society

from the let-them-listen-to-folk-music dept

As stories from the UK, Kenya, Peru, Slovakia, Canada, Germany, Taiwan, and the US demonstrate, there’s really something rather special about copyright collection societies. Back in 2012, Mike discussed a paper on the subject that listed over 90 examples of actions taken by collection societies around the world that have been bad either for artists or for users. Looks like we can add Bulgaria to the list:

The Bulgarian National Radio [BNR] and copyright organization Musicautor remain at loggerheads over music fees, with officials being cautious in their reaction.

Since January 01, the public radio is barred from playing more than 14 000 000 musical pieces from around the world and plays mostly classical music, jazz and folklore music.

As the report on the novinite.com site from Bulgaria’s capital Sofia explains, that’s because Musicautor is demanding that the present music licensing fee of 1% of BNR’s state subsidy should increase to 3%. It tries to justify that massive rise by pointing out that other countries around Europe pay a similarly elevated fee. But as the head of Bulgaria’s radio explains:

the demand from Musicautor is a burden on [BNR’s] budget and “does not rest on economic realities”. He accuses the organization of abusing its monopoly over copyright and warns if the radio were to agree, it would have to take one of its regional programs off air, infringing on the public interest.

Just because copyright collection societies have succeeded in squeezing fat licensing fees out of public broadcasters in other countries doesn’t mean that this is some inalienable right everywhere. Rather, it reflects the power — the monopoly power, in fact — of a collection society to threaten to stop people listening to millions of the most popular tracks on their national radio stations, however unreasonably, simply because it can.

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Comments on “Bulgarian Public Radio Forbidden To Play 14 Million Pieces Of Music By Copyright Collection Society”

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23 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

“As the report on the novinite.com site from Bulgaria’s capital Sofia explains, that’s because Musicautor is demanding that the present music licensing fee of 1% of BNR’s state subsidy should increase to 3%.”

And if that increase to 3% is met than how soon will it be before the Musicautor then demands another increase and another increase etc. When you give in to pay an extortionists demand the extortionist will be back for ever increasing demand again and again.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If a 2% increase isn’t that big of a deal, then clearly the collection agency can do without it either.

As for ‘bad for the artists’, I’d say it’s pretty safe to say that using said artists as a ‘bargaining’ chip, ‘Pay us triple what you have been or you can’t use any modern music’, resulting in no modern music being played is anything but in the best interests of said artists.

Having your music played on radio is of significant benefit, even to the point that you’ve got labels paying to have specific music played, so making demands that results in no music being played is clearly working against the interest of musicians.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Oh no! 3% licensing fee for a radio station? That’s outrageous”

As an increase from 1%? Yes, tripling a fee overnight is pretty outrageous, glad you agree. I’ve glad someone’s taking a stand against such naked profiteering.

“And you’re 100% right that collecting more in royalties is “bad . . . for artists.””

As already stated, please provide evidence that this will make it to artists. I haven’t seen anything specific from Bulgaria, but most other collection fees do have a habit of not making it to most artists.

In the meantime, how much in the way of royalties are the artists going to receive when their music is getting played 0 times vs the X times at 1%? Not to mention, with the music being “mostly classical music, jazz and folklore music”, how many of the artists are even alive? Sounds to me more like music being robbed from the public domain again to pay the middlemen who had nothing to do with the music’s creation.

“Keep up the awesome job, Techdirt! Fighting the good fight… For artists!”

The funny thing is, if you remove the sarcasm from your trolling, you’re actually correct – this article is a good argument in favour of the artists. A shame your type supports the corporates trying to rip them off at every turn, rather than the public entity trying to provide access to a wider array of culture.

CanadianByChoice (profile) says:

2% increase? noooooooo .....

Going from 1% to 3% is not a “2% increase” – it’s a 300% increase. Try absorbing a 300% increase of any expense and see how your business fairs. The extra expenditure has to come from somewhere, and accommodating it may tip the scale from “viable” to “impossible” if the business is already on a tight margin.

CanadianByChoice (profile) says:

As to the AC’s comment about “… collecting more in royalties is “bad . . . for artists….” – I don’t see that anywhere in the article! However, in my opinion, increasing the royalties is likely neither good nor bad for the artist (at least, not for the vast majority of them) because I don’t believe the artists will ever see a cent of the increase.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I don’t believe the artists will ever see a cent of the increase.”

As I mention above, I’m actually doubtful that a lot of these artists are even alive to receive the payments at all.

This stinks of public domain content being restricted (or what should be public domain in my mind – I’m no expert of Bulgarian law). Music that can be accurately described as “mostly classical music, jazz and folklore” don’t strike me as recent compositions. Recent recordings perhaps, but they’re not exactly going to compete for listens with mainstream outlets.

The local market could be very different, of course, but given that the outlet being attacked is public radio, I suspect they’re just attacking the alternative outlets they haven’t already fleeced when they’ve attacked the mainstream.

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