Spanish Collecting Society Targets Group Proposing Alternative Royalty SystemPublished on 22 September 2010 @ 10:05 am
By Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch
A Spanish group lobbying for alternative ways to protect and promote creative production has been asked to cease activity or face a lawsuit for damages, unfair competition and infringement by the Spanish collecting society SGAE (Sociedad General de Autores y Editores), according to the group. The collecting society also charged that the lobbying group is undermining its reputation.
Update: EXGAE has changed its name to La EX, the group announced on 29 November. The entity said the lawsuit was an opportunity to “make demands that could turn out to be a spectacular boost for some of the battles that so many people have been engaged in for so long.” According to the release, the SGAE «excludes» any intention to sue, and would engage in a dialogue with civil society on free licences in the spring of 2011.
Lobbying group EXGAE has claimed they received a fax in August asking them to effectively disappear “from the face of the earth within the next seven days.” EXGAE “facilitates a legal consultancy service for artists and those affected by the actions of traditional royalties management organisations and other cultural industry groups,” according to its website.
The fax received on behalf of the SGAE alleged, among other things, unfair competition regarding “the nature of the activities it carries out, under the provision of the Trademarks Law,” EXGAE said.
In the fax, the SGAE claimed illegitimate use of their name, which phonetically in Spanish is pronounced “esgae”, unacceptable references to their name on EXGAE’s website, unfair competition, and asked that EXGAE stop activities related to those alleged offences, according to the fax [pdf] (in Spanish).
The collecting society gave seven days for EXGAE to comply before taking legal action, according to the group. The SGAE is a private entity collecting royalties and distributing them to authors for the use of their work.
In a press release from SGAE dated 9 September, the collecting society required that EXGAE terminates “the unlawful use of the mark and to stop making a constant smear reference to the name” (SGAE). The release said that the “misuse of another’s trademark to describe its own services” constitutes unfair competition. It also said EXGAE’s activities were undermining the reputation of the SGAE, which represents over 98,000 artists.
SGAE requested that EXGAE “terminate the use of signs including the names SGAE and EXGAE; remove from the market any product or service that include the names of SGAE or EXGAE; give up ownership of the exgae.net domain” on the internet, according to the release. If the requirements were ignored, the SGAE “will be forced to bring the relevant legal proceedings.” Asked this week by Intellectual Property Watch if such legal proceedings were underway, SGAE provided no answer.
Simona Levi, a member of EXGAE, told Intellectual Property Watch in an interview that the group was not against copyrights and royalties but disagreed on the way royalties were handled and distributed by collecting societies, namely by the SGAE.
The way royalties are distributed today only promotes well-known artists and does not support the creation and dissemination of music in the digital era, she said.
EXGAE received a lot of support after receiving the fax from SGAE, Levi said, countering the allegation of unfair competition, and saying that EXGAE was not managing royalties.
EXGAE provides free legal advice to artists, programmers, cultural institutions, and schools, Levi said. It facilitates consultations with specialised lawyers when arduous legal cases arise. EXGAE is also a think tank and lobby group at the national and European level.
The group also organises cultural events to “normalise the use and relation with free culture creation and diffusion,” Levi said. One of those events are the Oxcars, a “four hours marathon really showing culture production.” The Oxcars are defined on EXGAE’s website as “the first non-competitive awards in the history of culture” as the event was trying to show that “applying competitive criteria to the culture sphere distorts its very essence.” The next Oxcars “free culture award ceremony” will be held in Barcelona on 28 October.
Another initiative by the group is to encourage the use of CopyLeft music, under Creative Commons with commercial use for small shops wishing to have music in the background, so that they do not have to pay what EXGAE defines as “extra money” for the service.
Also, in March, during the summit of the ministers of culture of the European Union countries, and their meeting with the Forum of Cultural Industries. EXGAE organised a parallel citizen summit, the (D’) Evolution Summit. The activist group monitored what was being said during discussions and reported on it, the information being circulated by 700 social networks, according to the EXGAE website.
Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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