The recent case of the local village of Pohorela being charged EUR 62.40 by copyright association SOZA because children sang copyrighted songs on Mothers’ Day has to be one of the most absurd cases of copyright being enforced in Slovakia.
TheDaily first drew attention to the Pohorela case by sharing it on Facebook at the end of May, but the case is not unique. Other villages and towns may also receive the same kinds of bills, like the one sent to the village of Helpa, which is being charged possibly for singing the well-known folk song celebrating the village called “To ta Helpa!”, for instance.
SOZA, which oversees the protection of music copyrights, is defending its position also because municipalities are supposed to conclude the necessary collective licence agreement before events take place. SOZA may be in the wrong, because it seems the law only affords protection to songs where the authors are known and not to folk songs that have been around for centuries. SOZA did not specify which songs were being ‘penalised’ on the bills.
The incident, even while involving small sums of money, has enraged people enough that a group was set up on Facebook, with a protest now planned outside the SOZA office at 12.30 this afternoon, where they will probably sing copyrighted folk songs. The village of Pohorela is contemplating filing a lawsuit against SOZA, as it refuses to pay, while SOZA insists on the money.
Culture minister Marek Madaric has spoken out also, with his spokesperson Jozef Bednar telling SME daily that “We would expect SOZA to proceed sensitively and with a healthy logic when applying the Copyright Act”. The issue has pointed to holes in copyright law, as cinemas, bars, restaurants etc. are all at the mercy of SOZA, which generated EUR 8.7 million in fees in 2010.
Cinemas in particular are not happy with the fees, which are charged regardless of what film is showing, if there is any music in the film, and even though copyright fees are covered already in the film rental.