Officials at the Portuguese Culture Ministry Inspector General (IGAC) caused panic recently when they ordered the company behind the country’s largest internet radio site to remove all unlicensed music content from its site within an unprecedented 48 hours.
The Media Capital Group, owned by TV and radio tycoon Miguel Paes de Amaral, which includes TV station TVI and radio stations Comercial, Best Rock FM and Radio Cidade, was told to block or remove public access to music allegedly made illegally available on its do-it-yourself radio website www.cotonete.iol.pt
The move, which has been hailed by movers and shakers in the recording industry as a major victory in the long-standing battle for copyright and music protection in Portugal, was instigated on September 29, following a formal complaint by Audiogest – the Association for Rights Management – and the GDA – the Management Co-operative of Artists’ Rights. AudioGest was founded in 2002 as a collection and distribution entity for the recording industry, while the GDA is responsible for collecting and distributing royalties to artists.
Portuguese internet provider search engines, such as Sapo and Clix, have also been ordered to block the unlicensed availability of copyright material, as have foreign sites such as Yahoo and Google. AudioGest and GDA were able to legally proceed against Media Capital, following a new Portuguese government law (No 50/2004) which came into effect on September 24 and which is backed up by the European Union Directive No 2001/29/CE on e-commerce pertaining to aspects of authors’ and neighbouring rights.
Miguel Lourenço Carretas, Director General of AudioGest, says: “We’re sending a clear message to all media entities that think they can profit from our members’ products free-of-charge.”
But the Director General of Cotonete, Carlos Marques, said this week that the GDA, AudioGest and AFP ‘had misunderstood the service’.
Cotonete, which has around 450,000 monthly users with 50,000 registered users, says that it did offer a service of internet music that could be played on the computer like a radio, in various musical categories such as ballads, Brazilian and dance music. But, he stressed that users could not select their own material, or the sequence in which that material was presented, although they could ‘skip and pause’.
“We’re now proceeding with the form in which we present the service, in line with recent European Parliament directives on intellectual property and neighbouring rights, and are continuing to negotiate a licensed-based personal radio service which our users can access through a paid-for subscription charge,” he stressed.
The sticking point, however, could be the form in which rights are collected. The GDA and AudioGest favour the UK model, whereby a fee is charged on the basis of each listener the service has. Cotonete believes that the US system, whereby a percentage of the receipts of the site are paid in rights, should be the chosen model.
Cotonete claims that, from the very first day of its operation in 2001, it ‘has respected intellectual property rights’ and came to an agreement with the Portuguese Authors’ Society Group, known as the SPA.