New Brazilian music copyright bill being debated by congress

July 12, 2013
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Copyright infringement and the distribution of musical works has long been a debate within the artistic community, its governing bodies and the government. It hit a whole new level in 1999 when online sharing sites like Napster hit the internet and made it easier than ever before for consumers to illegally share and release copyrighted music. Anyone who creates a song or piece of music wants to be fairly reimbursed for their hard work and the use of that work.

In Brazil, there is a new bill making its way through the congress that would set new rules for the collection, storage and distribution of copyrights for musical works. It aims to give more transparency to the relationship between the entities responsible for collecting the revenue from the copyright, the authors of the works and the public with regard to the "public performance of musical works, and musical lyrics and phonograms."

The project was developed based on the public audit of the Central Bureau of Collection and Distribution (ECAD) and contains several amendments. The first establishes the 10th of every month as the deadline for radio, television and film companies to deliver a completed list of the works that they have used during the previous month. This period is longer than the original version of the bill. Another amendment changes the billing of the users of the works will be proportional to the degree of utilization.

A deeper look at some of the changes

All of this stems from the investigation of ECAD by the senate to examine allegations against the company of wrongdoing. The organization currently holds the collection and distribution royalties on behalf its stable of composers and artists. 

According to the Rapporteur, Senator Humberto Costa, the bill was written in a way to try and appease the different interests of everyone involved and get them a fair piece of the pie. ECAD will remain as the sole collecting agency for copyrights but will be under government control possibly as a branch of the Ministry of Culture.There will also be a three year mandate for ECAD leaders who will only be up for one reelection.

The bill creates and promotes access to a cost table for the use of any piece of music. On top of that, all data related to collection and payments, as well as preserving the identity of the artists.

It also changes the pricing structure. The revenue ceiling used to fund the expenses of the ECAD will be lowered from 25 percent to 15 percent. What this means is that should the legislation become law, 85 percent of what is collected by for the use of a particular piece of music will be distributed to the owners if the copyrights, authors of the song, interpreters and any other group that contributed to the piece like the studio musicians. This change will not go into effect overnight as the ECAD will have four years to change the percentage at a rate of 2.5 percent per year.

Penalties for breaking the news laws

There are large sums of money being talked about here. In 2012, the ECAD grosses R$624.6 million ($276.6 million) and paid out R470.2 ($208.3 million). Officials responsible for collecting the revenue from the copyrights acting dishonestly will not only be fired from but suffer civil and criminal sanctions and have their conduct reported.

If this change goes into effect, any musical artist would be wise to partner with Brazilian lawyers to make sure they getting fairly reimbursed for their hard work.

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