French collecting society Spedidam has filed a suit against online retailers iTunes Music Store, Virgin Mega, Fnac Music, OD2, e-Compil and Sony Connect.

French collecting society Spedidam has filed a suit against online retailers iTunes Music Store, Virgin Mega, Fnac Music, OD2, e-Compil and Sony Connect.

According to Spedidam, which collects neighboring rights on behalf of musicians, these platforms are accused of selling songs without prior agreement from musicians who contributed to their recordings and are therefore violating the rights of these artists.

"Our action is only concerning the rights of the musicians, as opposed to performing artists," comments Spedidam attorney Guillem Querzola. "They received a fee for their recording performance, but they should also be paid for its use on the Internet, which is a new kind of utilization of their work."

Spedidam selected some specific recordings in which musicians it represents were involved. According to Universal Music France, who operates e-Compil, the lawsuits involved recordings from frontline French acts such as Alain Bashung, Eddy Mitchell, Michel Sardou, Patrick Bruel, Johnny Hallyday, Jacques Higelin, Patricia Kaas, Pascal Obispo, or Alain Souchon.

Querzola says that Spedidam is demanding €3.5 million ($4.2 million) in damages. Spedidam is not currently suing record companies. Querzola adds that, since labels are responsible for clearing the rights of the songs that they provide to online retailers, it is probable that they will be involved in the case on their own volition.

French online retailers and record company bodies SNEP and UPFI, as well as collecting societies SCPP and SPPF representing labels, reacted vigorously against this action.

In separate statements, they said they believe the timing of the action is not fortuitous -- it was filed Monday (March 6), just one day before the parliament was due to resume the debate on the highly controversial digital copyright bill.

SNEP's legal counsel Frédéric Goldsmith denounced "the use of legal actions to try and influence a parliamentary debate." He added that SNEP was pretty confident on the fate of this action.

Querzola easily acknowledges that the timing is not accidental. "We want to show that the debate on copyright is not as simple as picturing the righteous commercial services on one side and the pirates on the other," he says.

Spedidam is party to the Alliance Public-Artistes, which is behind the contentious concept of global license that would legalize online file sharing in exchange for a monthly fee paid by the end-user.

The debate on the copyright bill resumed on Tuesday (March 7). A final vote by the Parliament is schedule on March 15.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print