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News 21 Sep 16

Copyright Battle Takes Macedonian Music Off Air

TV and radio stations have been banned from airing most Macedonian songs because of a dispute over payments between the culture ministry and the Musical Copyright Society of Macedonia.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonian pop singer Karolina Goceva. Photo: Indrek Galetin

The Musical Copyright Society of Macedonia, ZAMP, which represents some 6,000 musicians in the country, has issued a ban on broadcasting music by its members in protest against what it says is the culture ministry’s continual attempts to cut songwriters’ and performers’ earnings and install a parallel association under government control.

The ban came after the culture ministry gave a licence to the newly-formed SOKOM MAP association to collect songwriters’ and performers’ fees from TV and radio broadcasters.

“Their goal is to divide the authors and to put a hand on the money collected by ZAMP. Thus the new association, SOKOM MAP, has become an instrument in the culture ministry’s hands,” ZAMP said in a statement.

The culture ministry said that it is still considering its next steps and told BIRN on Tuesday that “for now we are refraining from commenting on the harsh accusations against us”.

In its own response to the ban, SOKOM MAP urged the ministry to revoke ZAMP’s licence and called on broadcasters to ignore the ban.

It insisted that ZAMP represents only a small fraction of Macedonian musicians, and strongly rejected the claim that SOKOM MAP was in fact working for government interests.

Caught in the middle of the dispute, the TV and radio stations say they have no other choice but to stop playing Macedonian music, although by law their musical output must consist of at least 40 per cent of music by Macedonians.

“As of today, we decided to stop playing Macedonian music. Either way, we risk legal repercussions and steep fines,” one editor-in-chief of a regional radio station told BIRN under condition of anonymity.

Most broadcasters seemed to share the same opinion.

“We inform you that with this ban, considering the number of authors whose songs are banned, we will not be able to fulfill our obligation to air a certain per cent of Macedonian songs. This is mostly due to the small number of songs that we are now allowed to play,” the Macedonian Association of Private Media, ZPMM said in a letter to the government and the culture ministry on Tuesday.

The dispute between ZAMP and the culture ministry begun last year when parliament adopted government-proposed changes to the Copyright Law that significantly cut songwriters’ and performers’ fees.

The previous legislation stipulated that broadcasters should pay a certain percent of their annual earnings to ZAMP for the music they played, a sum that should be determined by the Broadcasting Council, a regulatory body.

But the new law limited that amount to a sum equal to 18 times the average wage for national media, 12 times for regional and six times for local.

ZAMP says that this has cut its earnings from copyright payments up to tenfold.

Until recently, ZAMP was the only association in Macedonia that protected music copyrights.

The association says it represents the vast majority of Macedonian musicians.

It is a member of the International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies, CISAC, and of the international organisation representing mechanical rights societies, BIEM.

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