Feature 05 Jan 17

Bulgarians Listen to Classics Thanks to Copyright War

A bitter dispute over fees with the Bulgarian copyright society has forced the national radio to play only music produced before 1945 – and some listeners are quite happy about it.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
The Symphonic Orchestra of the Bulgarian National Radio. Photo: Vladislava 1306/Wikmedia Commons

At 00.01 am on January 1, 2017, instead of hearing the official Bulgarian anthem, as they do every year, listeners to Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, were surprised to hear an alternative version performed by BNR’s own choir and symphonic orchestra.

This was not an independent decision of the music editors of BNR. It turned out that they had been banned from playing the official national anthem owing to a decision of Musicautor, Bulgaria’s non-profit society of composers, lyricists and music publishers, which exists to collectively manage copyright issues.

Musicautor, which hold the copyright to over 14,000,000 songs of Bulgarian and worldwide artists, suspended its contract with BNR from the beginning of the new year, demanding higher fees.

It has banned BNR from playing much contemporary Bulgarian and foreign music until the fee issue is resolved.

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