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Artists haven’t received royalties for years - because the system tasked with enforcing copyright law and collecting them appears to have collapsed.
|Copyright | Source : Marco Gomes/Flickr|
No artists in Albania rely on copyright as a source of income these days, for the simple reason that royalties for the broadcast and reproduction of their work have not been collected and paid out for years.
Songwriter Redon Makashi explains that until 2005 they received some small-scale royalties by registering with a local copyright protection agency.
“But although TV and radio stations continue to broadcast our work we have not seen a single penny since then,” Makashi complained.
The law, which has been in force for the past two decades, says authors and artists are entitled to royalties not only when their work is broadcast in radio and television, but also when it is used in public commercial venues, like hotels, bars and restaurants.
However, the agencies tasked with collecting the royalties remain weak and do not have the power to force broadcasters to pay for the intellectual property they use, while authors complain that their work is not always transparent.
On the other hand the authorities themselves seem to have little power to pressure broadcasters, which often refuse to maintain due oversight and controls.
Copyright law in Albania is enforced by the Copyright Office, which is part of the Ministry of Culture, and by agencies where authors register their work in order to collect royalties.
In its 2011 annual report, Albania’s Copyright Office, ZSHDA, admits that monitoring television and radio stations in regard to infringements of the law remains difficult.
“Inspectors have been denied access to radio and television stations, some addresses are different from those listed with National Council of Radio and Television, while in some cases the operators have refused to accept the requirements of the copyright law,” the report underlines.
The Copyright Office notes the same problems in the hotel industry, with many operators simply brushing off attempts by licensed agencies to collect royalties due to authors.
“There has been a total lack of will from hotel operators and associations to fulfill the requirements subscribed in the law,” the ZSHDA said.
“Public institutions that operate and enforce the law in the field of tourism have also failed to act,” it added, noting that negotiations between copyright agencies and operators in the last three years have been futile.
Currently four agencies are registered with the Culture Ministry’s copyright office, Albautor, FMAA, AKIDE and AMP.
Nearly 130 Albanian music and film composers have registered their works with Albautor the oldest of the four.
The four agencies, which are registered as non-governmental organizations, act in a managerial capacity to collect royalties through collective bargaining and redistribute them to artists.
However, authors that have registered with them complain that they fail to collect any royalties, even when their work is extensively used.
“I registered my films scores and music with Albautor and they are supposed to pay the royalties each year but so far nothing has happened,” composer Miron Kotani said.
“Protection of intellectual rights is one of the priorities set out by the EU for Albania’s accession bid, but unfortunately we are waiting in vain for this,” he added.
According to ZSHDA, the collection agencies remain weak, often relying on inadequate staff and lacking transparency concerning the fees they apply.
ZSHDA complains in its annual report that there is lack of cooperation between the agencies and the ministry, despite earlier pledges to work in unison.
“Only one of the four agencies, AKIDE, had staff on the ground in 2011 and cooperated in terms of transparency by publishing its fees,” the ZDSHA said.
According to ZDSHA the two other agencies licensed in 2011, Albautor and FMAA, had only one executive director each and no supporting staff.
The ZDSHA itself is currently without a director. The Ministry of Culture declined to comment on the issue.
Contacted by Balkan Insight, the former head of ZDSHA, Nikoleta Gjermeni, admitted that Albanian artist face a grim situation in terms of copyright infringement, but argued that while she headed the agency “her hands were tied”.
The executive director of Albautor, Idar Bistro, said that he sympathized with the disillusion that many artist feel with the agencies, but there was little they could do about royalties without the support of public institutions.
“The institutions that should be the promoters of these rights, and are financed by taxpayers’ money to do so, like the Ministry of Culture, are doing too little to enforce copyright law,” Bistro maintained.
“These institutions… are either inactive in the best of cases or, worse, in breach of the law, which translates into a situation that has made intellectual rights in Albania close to nonexistent,” he added.
This article is funded under the BICCED project, supported by the Swiss Cultural Programme.
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