Rosochrankultura, the federal service controlling legal compliance in the field of cultural heritage protection in Russia, has announced that the new round of governmental accreditation for collecting societies will begin July 31, 2009.

This time the neighboring rights are in question: the collecting society approved by Rosochrankultura will have an exclusive right to collect royalties for all performers and record manufacturers in Russia, whenever their commercially released musical works are publicly performed or broadcast.

All legal activities of collecting societies in Russia are ruled by the 4th Chapter of the Civil Code, which became fully effective on Jan. 1, 2008. According to this legislation, collecting societies can operate only if they have direct written agreements with authors, performers and other rights owners or with foreign collecting societies. But one major society, which has governmental accreditation, can collect royalties for all rights owners without direct agreements.

The major society for author's royalties was determined in August 2008, when Russian Authors' Society (RAO) received governmental accreditation from Rosochrankultura, although it was the only challenger.

The first ever round of accreditation for collecting performer's royalties was held in December 2008, and all four applicants were denied. The bill included ROUPI (Russian Society for managing performers' rights), RFA (Equal Rights Phonographic Alliance), VOASP (All-Russian Society of authors' and neighboring rights) and RCU (Russian Copyright Owners' Union), which is affiliated with RAO.

Since last December, there has been a shift in the balance of power between the societies. A surprise for many was to see several top executives of RFA, including CEO Erick Valdes Martinez, leaving their positions in the company and moving to the competitor RCU in February 2009. In March 2009 it was announced that VOASP would merge with RCU, which had acquired the society.

Thus now only three collecting societies are about to file an application for governmental accreditation in July: ROUPI, RFA and RCU. And of them, the latter has two obvious advantages: ex-employees of their main rival in the top executive team and the merged catalog of another ex-rival society VOASP.

For more on the publishing business in Russia see the new issue of Billboard, published May 8.