Sabam’s members include authors, artists, musicians, and film directors; The Next Web‘s Robin Wauters describes the association as “one of the global poster children for how outrageously out of touch with reality certain rightsholders groups appear to be.”
The newspaper De Morgen reports that a local library in Dilbeek in Belgium and some other small towns have been contacted by Sabam, which says that the libraries should have to pay about 250 euros (just over $300) a year for volunteers to read copyright books to children. Librarians say they rely on volunteers to read to about ten children twice a month as the libraries have no budget for such. Amazingly — abhorrently — even older works such as Grimm’s Fairy Tales would not be exempt according to Sabam’s calculations as any edition of the stories is under a copyright, notes Muriel Kane on Raw Story.
While describing the whole matter as “Kafkaian,” Wauters — who encourages people to the contact the government to speak up about Sabam – says that all of this charging-libraries-fees-for-reading-books-to-kids business could be “just crazy enough for the world to pay even more attention to their wicked ways.”.Sabam, says Kane, is “notorious in Europe for its copyright-related activities,” some of which have led to legal charges against the organization. Sabam has demanded that a social networking site be forced to filter content but the European Court of Justice has ruled that such would violate users’ privacy. In another lawsuit filed in 2004, a Belgian composer charged that there had been “alleged ‘breaches’ in his royalty payments”; this suit had led to charges against Sabam of “falsifying accounts to cover up bribes, abuse of trust, copyright fraud and embezzlement.”
Sabam says that libraries, as they are “public places,” must pay royalties “for a public reading session.” Wauters’ observation that this demand could serve to make very public Sabam’s “wicked ways” is apt: Since the report about Sabam and libraries appeared, Sabam has been (notes Kane) saying the whole thing is a “misunderstanding,” while contending that “although it does have the right to demand a reading fee, the library in question was only being asked to pay for playing music.”
Clearly, in Sabam’s eyes, to say there is “no free lunch” is an understatement.
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