Aretha Franklin Dies

Russian Communications Ministry Proposes Royalty Collections Be Run By the Kremlin

ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images
The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia photographed on May 7, 2015.

Russia’s communications ministry has struck back at those who criticized its recent proposals for reforming the copyright royalty collection system -- by proposing even more radical changes. The ministry has suggested that the task of collecting copyright royalties should be transferred from existing collecting societies to a state agency that would be formed specifically for that purpose.

To facilitate changes, the ministry proposed amendments to the country administrative code in a document quoted by the Russian business daily Vedomosti.

The previous set of proposals stipulated direct agreements between a rights holder and a collecting society, opening up the segment to new players as opposed to the current practice of having just three state-accredited collecting societies.

The proposals triggered substantial criticism from the music industry, and one outspoken critic, Andrei Krichevsky, head of state-run Melodiya label and deputy general director of collecting society RAO, was beaten up in central Moscow two weeks ago. The attack is still being investigated, and a possible connection to Krichevsky's stand on the copyright reform has not been established so far.

The communications ministry's main argument for changes to the copyright royalty collection procedures is that the existing system lacks transparency.

"Our principal stand is that [copyright royalty collection should be done by] an organization completely controlled by the government," deputy communications minister Alexei Volin was quoted as saying by Vedomosti. "It should be absolutely transparent so that it could be regularly audited by the Audit Chamber."

Currently, three state-accredited collecting societies operate in Russia. RAO collects authors’ rights royalties, VOIS deals with neighboring rights, and RSP collects a one-percent tax on imports of electronic devices that can be used for copying content. Earlier this summer, the three societies announced a merger in a bid to make their operations more transparent and simplify procedures for rights holders.

Over the last few years, some Russian rights holders complained about too small royalty payments from RAO. Among them was Elena Kiper, the author of the song "Not Gonna Get Us," an international early-2000s hit by the duo t.A.T.u.