Russian Minister Floats Idea of Multi-Nation Organization to Collect Royalties

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Red Square in Moscow, Russia. 

As the future of Russia’s copyright royalty collection system remains uncertain, new and strange initiatives keep popping up. Most recently, the country’s culture ministry proposed that royalties should be collected by a new organization that will be created under the auspices of the Eurasian Economic Union.

The new organization "would combine national collecting societies and will develop uniform standards for their operation, management and control over their observance," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry's proposal came as a surprise to many in the Russian collecting industry as the Eurasian Economic Union, an organization that includes Russia and four more countries of the former Soviet Union, has never dealt with issues related to copyright royalty collection.

Moreover, of all the Eurasian Economic Union's member states, only Russia has a developed collecting industry, while in the other member countries -- Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan -- the collecting sectors are either insignificant or non-existent.

The culture ministry joined the discussion about the future of Russia's collecting industry at a time when the government's other agencies are discussing the replacement of the existing collecting societies with one state-run agency.

The economic development ministry has been lobbying the idea of replacing the country's three collecting organization -- RAO, the state-approved authors' rights collecting society, VOIS, which deals with neighboring rights and RSP, which collects a one-percent tax on imports of electronic devices that can be used for copying content -- with one government body in a bid to achieve synergy and greater transparency.

Russian collecting societies have long been accused of insufficient transparency of their procedures for royalty collection and distribution. But the sector started to really feel the heat in mid-2016, when Sergei Fedotov, then head of RAO, was arrested on suspicion of funneling money out of the organization.

The still-jailed Fedotov was recently replaced by Maxim Dmitriyev and RAO promised a series of measures aimed at stepping up transparency.

Still, it's up to the government to make a final decision about the future of the sector.


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