Bulgarian radio station and CMO in row over royalties

Bulgaria's state national radio station, BNR, is no longer permitted to play millions of contemporary songs due to a row over copyright remuneration. The broadcaster is at loggerheads with Collective Management Organisation (CMO) Musicautor, which manages the rights of 14 million pieces of music.

Musicautor wants BNR to gradually pay, over a number of years, higher royalties to bring it into line with private radio stations in Bulgaria and national radio stations in other EU countries. But no agreement has been reached and since 1 January, the radio station has instead been playing classical, jazz and traditional folk music.

Musicautor has been trying to engage in talks with BNR management but with little success.

ICMP is particularly concerned about this situation as Bulgaria is one of the EU countries that has failed to implement the Collective Rights Management Directive. The Directive states that licensing terms shall be based on objective and non-discriminatory criteria.

By failing to implement the Directive, Bulgaria’s CMOs are facing severe problems when trying to close deals with major broadcasters. EU case law confirms that the application of different remuneration tariffs to state-funded and private commercial broadcasters offering equivalent services may disrupt fair competition rules.

ICMP therefore calls for any disparities in the financial treatment of state-funded and private radio stations to be eliminated. Fair and non-discriminatory licensing commercial terms are key to ensuring that users can obtain licences and rightsholders are paid appropriately.