SABAM’s tariff hike ruled illegal
Competition , Live Events / May 2018

COMPETITION Live events sector   SABAM’s unilateral move to raise live music concert tariffs in Belgium last year has been ruled to constitute unfair commercial practices by a Brussels court A coalition of Belgian festival and concert promoters filed a lawsuit against Sabam (Société d’Auteurs Belge/Belgische Auteurs Maatschappij), Belgium’s performance rights organisation, last May after tariffs were increased across the board, with the largest festivals seeing their payments to Sabam increase 30%. The tariffs were imposed by Sabam from the 1st January 2017 after negotiations with live sector and industry groups failed. The new tariff also  went beyond Box Office revenues to include sponsorship and subsidies as relevant revenues for the tariffs, “when these revenues are clearly related to the event”. Jan Vereecke of Night of Proms promoter PSE, who brought the suit along with Live Nation Belgium/Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop and GraciaLive, the unilateral move saw Sabam “simply abusing its monopoly” while “offering no additional services in exchange for the price increase”. The Commercial Court of Brussels (Tribunal de Commerce de Bruxelles) found the PRO “guilty of unfair commercial practices by significantly increasing festival fees (up to 37%)”.  Sabam has been ordered to pay a fine of €5,000 for each day the newly…

Connecting to free wifi at venues ? Make sure you read the small print!

DATA REGULATION / CONTRACT Live events sector Some 22,000 people have agreed to undertake 1,000 hours of community service – including cleaning festival toilets and scraping chewing gum from the pavement – in return for free wireless internet, reveals an experiment designed to illustrate a lack of awareness among consumers signing up for free in-venue wifi. Purple, who launched the experiment, said “We welcome the strengthening of data protection laws across Europe that GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] will bring. Not only will it give wifi end users more control over how their personal data is being used by companies, it will also raise the level of trust in the digital economy”. During the experiment users were given the chance to flag the unreasonable condition in return for a prize. But only one person did. In separate news, Belgium newspaper De Standaard reports that the Belgian Privacy Commission is investigating the way the Tomorrowland festival shares ticket buyer data with the federal police to screen attendees for security reasons. 8 ticket-buyers have been excluded from the Belgian festival this year –    

Belgian live industry go to court over the Sabam rate hike

COMPETITION  / COPYRIGHT Live events sector, collection societies   The live sector in Belgian including the Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop and Night Of The Proms, festivals and tour promoter GraciaLive are heading to court with the  country’s performing rights organisation Sabam over the new royalty rates introduced at the start of the year by the PRO. Sabam justified the recent changes to the live event tariffs to bring Belgium more in line with royalties charged elsewhere in Europe.  Jan Vereecke of Night Of The Proms promoter PSE told HLN: “Sabam has unilaterally decided to increase its tariffs by 30%. It says this is based on what is charged by societies in neighbouring countries, but the rate increase is a simple abuse of monopoly”, adding “Actually, the whole system is outdated. Sabam takes a percentage of our ticket sales. But the shows of today are different than ten years ago, as staging, large screens, fireworks and such like become more common. These production elements increase the costs of the show, and therefore the cost of the ticket, and Sabam gets to skim more off the top. That is wrong”.   And in the USA, the ongoing issues around a planned move to ‘100%…

Belgian promoters react with fury to planned tariff rise
Copyright , Live Events / September 2016

COPYRIGHT Live events sector   Belgian promoters have reacted with fury to an increase in festival tariffs announced by local performance rights organisation (PRO) Sabam (Société d’Auteurs Belge/Belgische Auteurs Maatschappij) which is planned for 1 January 2017. The rates shake-up will primarily affect larger festivals, which currently benefit from a discount in Sabam’s standard tariff of 6% on box-office receipts. The lowest rate is currently 2.5%, for festivals with box office that exceeds €3.2 million. Flemish-language paper De Morgen says this will rise to around 3.5%   Live Nation Belgium’s Herman Schueremans, promoter of Rock Werchter and TW Classic, calls Sabam “unreasonable” and says the Sabam wants to “kill the goose that lays the golden egg” with the end of the current licence discount. Schueremans pointed to the UK’s tariff of 3% of gross box-office receipts.  In turn, the UK the Association of Independent Festivals has recently suggested a reduction in the UK Tariff LP for live events (which is also under review by PRS for Music) to reflect the unique position of multi stage and multi artist outdoor events and that that PRS for Music do not taking in consideration that many festivals are actually multi-arts events or that not…

The Pirate Bay Four acquitted in Belgium
Copyright , Criminal Law , Internet / August 2015

COPYRIGHT/CRIMINAL Internet, technology   Gottfrid Svartholm, Fredrik Neij, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundström, the four original key Pirate Bay founders, have been acquitted by a Belgian court on charges of criminal copyright infringement and abusing electronic communications. All four defendants have denied having anything to do with the site since was seemingly sold to a Seychelles-based company called Reservella in 2006, and this proved a major hurdle for Belgian prosecutors as the crimes were allegedly committed between September 2011 and November 2013. A judge at the Mechelse Court ruled that it could not be proven that the four were involved in the site during the period in question. Indeed, for at least a year of that period, Svartholm was in jail in Sweden while connecting Lundström to the site a decade after his last involvement (which was purely financial) has always been somewhat difficult. In the end, even the site’s anti-piracy adversaries in the case agreed with the decision: “Technically speaking, we agree with the court,” said Olivier Maeterlinck, director of the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA). and

Jackson fans get one euro each from Murray for King of Pop’s death
Artists / March 2014

MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE Artists   A court in Orléans, France, has ruled that five Michael Jackson fans should receive damages of one euro each from Conrad Murray for the “emotional damage” they suffered following the late king of pop’s death. Murray was found guilty in 2011 of causing Jackson’s demise by providing negligence treatment while working as the singer’s personal doctor. A total of 34 members of the Michael Jackson Community fan club, which is based in France, sued the doctor. The Orléans court ruled that just five of them – two from France, two from Belgium and one from and Switzerland – had proven that they had legitimate claims against the former doctor. Each was awarded symbolic damages of one euro. The lawyer acting on behalf of the fans, Emmanuel Ludot, told AFP: “As far as I know, this is the first time in the world that the notion of emotional damage in connection with a pop star has been recognised”. Ludot added that none of the five fans intend to seek their payout from Murray, but instead hoped that their legal status as victims of Jackson’s death would gain them access to his burial site. A Californian court has…

SABAM launch pre-emptive strike against ISPs

COPYRIGHT Music publishing, internet   SABAM, the Belgian collection society for authors, composers and music publishers, has launched a legal action against the country’s three biggest ISPs, arguing that they should be paying copyright levies for offering access to their members’ copyrights. No stranger to the courts, SABAM wants the court to rule that Internet access providers Belgacom, Telenet and Voo should pay 3.4 percent of their turnover in copyright fees for the use of music, because they make substantial profits from offering high speed Internet connections that give users easy access to copyright protected materials – legally and illegally – whilst hiding behind their status as intermediary “without taking responsibility for the information transmitted over their networks” In a press release, SABAM noted that since 2000, revenues generated from music featured in the physical media (primarily CD sales) have declined by 54 percent, adding that this “huge loss” has not been compensated by collections from online services like iTunes, YouTube and Spotify. SABAM have been asking for voluntary levies from ISPs since November 2011 and have now launched their claim in the  Brussels Court of First Instance.

Updates from the Electronic Frontiers Foundation on global broadcasting issues
Regulation / January 2012

BROADCASTING REGULATION Broadcasting The EFF reports that the Indian Telecommunications Minister has met with top officials of Internet companies and social media sites, including the Indian units of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, to try to compel them to filter offensive content. The New York Times reported that Minister Kapil Sibal met with executives to ask the companies to create internal mechanisms that would prevent any comments the state deemed “disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory” towards political and religious figures. A Belgian Internet watchdog group (NURPA) has reported that one of the three major mobile Internet providers in Belgium, Base, voluntarily started blocking access to the Pirate Bay. This block comes after a case initiated by the Belgian Anti-Piracy Federation, in which an Antwerp Court of Appeals ordered two major fixed broadband providers to block access to the Pirate Bay at the DNS level. EFF also reports from Thailand, which declared at the start of December that Facebook users “liking” or sharing content offensive to the Thai throne could be sentenced up to 15 years in prison; Joe Gordon, an American-Thai who translated a banned biography of Thailand’s king and posted the content online while living in Colorado was sentenced to…

Saban looks for download compensation
Copyright , Internet / December 2011

COPYRIGHT Internet Torrrentfreak reports that the Belgian music royalty collecting agency SABAM has said that it will bill Internet Service Providers for allowing subscribers to play and download copyrighted songs. SABAM claims it is entitled to charge ISPs for compensation for illegal downloading by their users based on existing 1994 copyright law, and is demanding 3.4% percent of the monthly fee paid by subscribers. The legislation provides that authors should be paid for any “public broadcast” of a song – although whether a download is a ‘public broadcast’ is a moot point. In a recent blog o 1709 (4th October) we examined the US position, where the Courts have recently held that a download is NOT a public performance of a recorded work. Belgian ISPs, who are also involved in a longstanding legal battle with Sabam over a network piracy filter (Sabam v Tiscali), believe the demands of the music rights group make little sense with Torrentfreak reporting Belgacom spokesperson saying “It’s their interpretation of the law, but that is not legally justified

Pukklepop will go ahead in 2012
Health & Safety , Live Events / November 2011

HEALTH & SAFETY Live events industry Belgian music festival Pukkelpop will go ahead next year, despite the tragedy which struck this year’s event when four people were killed after a stage collapse when a freak storm hit the festival site on the opening day of Pukkelpop 2011. 70 other people were injured as lighting rigs and large screens also fell. Following an investigation by the Hasselt Public Prosecutor, a ‘force majeure’ ruling was put in place, stating that the festival’s organisers could not be held liable for what happened. This means the Festival will not face prosecution, but reportedly will not be able to make a claim against its liability insurance cover – although it turn those wishing to bring a civil law claim against the Festival may face an additional hurdle in proving fault and liability. The Festival will take place between the 16th and 18th August 2012 and customers who had bought a ticket for the cancelled 2011 event will receive free food and drink vouchers, valued at 75 euros and 150 euros respectively which can be used at any of the next three Pukklepop festivals. For damages to items such as lost or broken camping equipment, festivalgoers will be…

Beyoncé accused of copying in choreography row!
Copyright / November 2011

COPYRIGHT Artists Beyoncé has been accused of copying the choreography of Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker for the video to her new track ‘Countdown’  after a number of people noted online the /similarities between the Beyoncé promo and two of her dance pieces  ‘Achterland’ and ‘Rosas danst Rosas’. While admitting she and Beyoncé viewed a number of existing dance pieces before devising the ‘Countdown’, the video’s co-director Adria Petty (who had previously said how she borrowed inspiration for various European dances) insists that the overall choreography of the promo is original. Speaking to MTV, she said and her Beyoncé’s team significantly developed any specific elements taken from other pieces, while adding that “German modern-dance references” were actually the greatest influence saying “I brought Beyoncé a number or references and we picked some out together. Most were German modern dance references, believe it or not,” she said. “Go compare” at  

Five dead in Pukklepop storm disaster
Health & Safety , Live Events / September 2011

HEALTH & SAFETY Live events industry At least five people have died and many more injured at the 60,000 capacity Pukklepop Festival in Belgium after a storm swept through a popular open-air music festival in the town of Hasselt, 50 miles east of Brussels. The storm hit the site in the late afternoon on Thursday 18th August. Concertgoers described scenes of panic as the sky darkened, the winds whipped, rain poured, hailstones nearly half an inch across pelted the crowds, and concert structures buckled. The worst affected area was the Chateau Stage which collapsed as the Smith Westerns began their set.  Lead singer Cullen Omori  told Pitchfork: “We had just finished the first song of our set at Pukkelpop when the stage/tent started shaking. We simply thought it was a storm passing through. I made a comment about Cheap Trick, and we were about to play the next one, when our tour manager yelled at me to run off the stage. Right then the tress collapsed one foot in front of Max. At this point we thought only the stage broke, not the tent. Amid the chaos it was hard to tell exactly what had happened, but after the rescue teams started coming in it became clear…

Plastic Bertrand never sang on his biggest hit
Artists , Copyright , Record Labels / September 2010

COPYRIGHT Record labels, artists Belgian performer Plastic Bertrand, whose real name is Roger Jouret, has admitted that he was not the singer on his 1977 hit ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’. French composer and producer Lou Deprijck has long claimed that his was actually the voice on the track and now expert evidence presented to a Belgian court has confirmed this – with a linguist commissioned by the judge saying that the person who sang the song did so in a specific regional accent of northern France (where Deprijck comes) which could not have been replicated by Belgian-born Jouret. The judgement read: “The way the phrases end on each record show that the song could only have been sung by a Ch’ti – otherwise known as someone from the Picard region of France. It could therefore not have been Plastic Bertrand – who was born in Brussels – and was surely Mr Deprijck”. That said, it appears that in 2006, the Brussels Court of Appeal had already ruled that, although Deprijck may indeed have been the person who sang the vocals, Jouret was the “legal performer” of the song because his face had appeared on the single’s artwork and he signed the…

European Commissioner calls for debate on format shifting
Copyright / July 2008

COPYRIGHT All areas Most consumers are under the misapprehension that they can make a private copy of a CD and put that onto a cassette, hard drive of their computer or other format – or make a back up copy of computer software – and this is perfectly legal. Well under UK law it most certainly is not – which is perhaps why The Gowers’ Report into IP law in the UK called for this area of copyright law to be revisited and indeed called for the legalising of private copying without compensation for copyright owners. The European Union Copyright Directive allows an exception for consumer private copying on condition that the right holder receives ‘fair compensation’ and many European countries achieve this by way of a levy on either blank discs or tapes or on copying technology. In all events supporters of the format shifting exception say that as there’s no harm to rights holders from the format shift, any compensation should be “zero”. But that is not currently accepted by some parts of the music, software and computer games industries. The Music Business Group, the umbrella group of trade bodies representing music managers, songwriters, publishers and performers responded…

Belgian newspapers bring second action against Google
Copyright , Internet / July 2008

COPYRIGHT Internet Codiepresse, the copyright collecting society for Belgian newspapers, has announced that they are suing Google for publishing and storing their content in the main Google search engine and its news aggregator, claiming damages of between 32.8 million Euros (£25.9 million) and 49.2 million Euros (£38.8 million). The organisation said that the losses were calculated by a professor at the University Libre de Bruxelles, based on articles stored by Google since the 13th April 2001 and Google News since it launched in Belgium in 2006. Copiepresse have already successfully sued Google once. In 2006 a Belgian court ruled in favour of a claim to have content removed from and Google News. Following that ruling, Google said: “It is important to remember that both Google Web Search and Google News only ever show a few snippets of text. If people want to read the entire story they have to click through to the web publisher’s site where the information resides. We believe search engines are of real benefit to publishers because they drive valuable traffic to their websites”. Here Google tried to put copyright owners on the backfoot saying “If publishers do not want their websites to appear in…

IFPI hails Court ruling that Belgian ISPs must filter illegal content
Copyright , Internet / August 2007

COPYRIGHT Internet A court in Belgium has confirmed that an Internet Service Provider must take responsibility for stopping illegal file-sharing on its network.  The ruling is the first of its kind in Europe and, since it implements EU legislation, it sets an important precedent in the fight against piracy internationally. The judgment is warmly welcomed by the international recording industry, which has been pressing for action by ISPs to curb piracy on their Networks.  The judge said that ISPs have the technical means at their disposal to either block or filter copyright-infringing material on P2P networks and gave the ISP Scarlet (formerly Tiscali) six months to implement such measures.  The judgment pointed in particular to the filtering technology developed by Audible Magic. It also referred to six other possible solutions to block the traffic of unlicensed music, which are highlighted in an experts’ report commissioned by the court. This is the first case in Europe that has examined in detail the technologies that are available to block or filter copyright-infringing traffic on file-sharing networks. The Belgian court was ruling on a case brought by the body representing authors and composers in Belgium, SABAM, against the ISP Tiscali. The IFPI estimates there were some…

Google’s use of news excepts ruled illegal in Belgium
Copyright , Internet / March 2007

COPYRIGHT Internet A Court in Belgium has ordered the search company Google to stop showing excerpts of articles from French and German language Belgian newspapers on Google News and Google’s websearch site for Belgium. This decision affirms an earlier ruling by the same court against the company, while halving the daily fine Google faces for non-compliance. Google failed to persuade the court that full-text caching plus excerpt-only reproduction could constitute fair use or that the burden lies with copyright owners to exercise an ‘opt-out’ option. Google intends to appeal. The Company argues that they company always complies with requests from copyright owners to remove infringing material and indeed that they only use ‘snippets’ of news. According to a spokesman for the company “ If people want to read the entire story they have to click through to the web publisher’s site where the information resides. We believe search engines are of real benefit to publishers because they drive valuable traffic to their websites”. From the ever wonderful IPKat See also Google v Perfect 10 (Google image search can infringe) and Google v Field (Googlecashes are fair use)both US court decisions: both Law Updates March 2006. In Australia a federal judge held that Google could be…

eDonkey server siezed
Copyright , Internet , Record Labels / March 2006

COPYRIGHT Internet, record labels Swiss and Belgian authorities have closed down Razorback 2 which is seen as the biggest index server on the eDonkey P2P network. The server’s operator was arrested in his home in Switzerland while the server itself was seized at an Internet hosting centre close to Brussels. There are said to be somewhere between 100 and 200 other index servers on the network, but the closing down of Razorback 2 has been taken as a significant coup. Razorback 2 had an estimated 1.3M simultaneous users with around 170M files being traded via it. Across the whole of eDonkey there were an estimated 3M users. John Kennedy of IFPI said of the raids: “This is a very significant breakthrough in the fight against internet piracy internationally, removing one of the biggest and most well-known sources of illegal music files on the internet. This is an excellent example of good cooperation between law enforcement agencies across borders and among the copyright industries in addressing the problem worldwide”.

Belgium courts look at plagiarism
Copyright , Music Publishing / December 2005

COPYRIGHT Music publishers Salvatore Acquaviva has won a copyright case in Belgium against Madonna. The court upheld his claim that Madonna’s ‘Frozen’ plagarised one of his songs. The BBC report that EMI, Sony and Warner Music have been ordered to withdraw the song from sale in Belgium. Mr Acquaviva’s lawyer Victor-Vincent Dehin said the judge agreed that Madonna’s single used four bars of the song Ma Vie Fout L’camp, which roughly translates as My Life’s Getting Nowhere. In a separate matter Belgium has reported that Belgium’s Court of Appeal is considering a claim regarding Michael Jackson’s hit song “You Are Not Alone”. The claim in the case of Van Pasel v R Kellyand Zomba (2005) is based on the finding of the Belgian collection and rights society that the largest part of the melody of the 1995 song “You Are Not Alone” that R Kelly presented to Michael Jackson is “identical” to the 1993 song “If We Can Start All Over” composed by Belgian brothers Eddy &Danny Van Passel.


COPYRIGHT Record Labels, Music Publishing The Belgian Ministry of Economy has announced that a 12 eurocent per hour tax will be levied on blank rewritable CDs to compensate composers, copyright holders and performers for copies made for personal use and to counterbalance the likely lower income paid to copyright owners from reduced music CD sales. Meanwhile, in a different approach to music piracy, Italy has announced tough new laws against those illegally buying and selling pirated music on street stalls. For the first time, buyers of pirated CDs will face a fine of up to 154 euros for each illegal CD brought. Sanctions against vendors have been increased and vendors face fines and imprisonment for up to three years. See,89,&item_id=30857