During a miserable year for Spanish sales, for the first time ever Spanish authors body SGAE collected more money from a home-copying levy on consumer electronics/blank media than it did in mechanical royalties from records.

The collecting society says it received €27.7 million ($34.2 million) from the levy (the so-called "digital canon") in 2009, an increase of 72.9% over the previous year. At the same time, declining CD sales saw authors' rights income from the sales of recorded music decrease 30.5% to €20.5 million ($25.3 million).

SGAE president Teddy Bautista announced the figures at SGAE's annual assembly in Madrid May 19. He told SAGE members that total income during 2009 fell to €316.9 million euros ($390.5 million million), a drop of 5.1% over 2008, which was itself 11.5% down on compared to 2007. SGAE's distributions to its members totalled €345.5 million euros ($438.7 million), 4.8% down on 2008.

Bautista added that the "the figures are bad, but not as bad as we expected." According to IFPI figures, the Spanish recorded music market fell in trade value in 2009, as it has every year since 2002. The 2009 drop of 14.3% brought the market down to a total value of €177 million ($245.9 million).

The levy is intended to compensate rights-holders for loss of income caused by private copying of copyrighted content. Originally introduced in 1987 on blank tape and specified hardware, its range was extended in 2007 to cover "any digital equipment or carrier capable of making a legal private copy."

That extension brought Spain into line with the terms of a 2003 European Commission directive which has been adopted by most continental European members of the EU, although not by its largest music market, the United Kingdom, which has no such levy.

With 95,000 members in Spain and many Latin American countries, SGAE claims to be the world's fifth largest collecting society.

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