The COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken in response have far-reaching implications for almost all businesses, in a wide variety of sectors, including the cultural sector. Copyright collection societies (also known as copyright collectives) in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have taken several steps in order to mitigate this impact, for both rightsholders and companies paying royalties. This article provides a brief overview of these measures.
In Belgium, the copyright collective Unisono has opted to suspend all invoices for companies that are required to close. The payment term for outstanding invoices is automatically extended by 60 days, and no reminder fee will be charged. Furthermore, invoices for licences for any event scheduled between 13 March and 19 April 2020 are automatically cancelled. If the payment has already been made, it will be refunded.
In the Netherlands, the copyright collective Buma/Stemra has opted for a two-pronged approach and has adopted measures to accommodate companies using copyright-protected materials, on the one hand, and rightsholders, on the other hand.
Companies that are required to close may qualify for an exemption from or suspension of their payment obligations during the closure. It should be noted that if a company receives government subsidies or grants, it is not eligible for an exemption/suspension. For the time being, the scope of this measure is unclear, particularly whether it concerns an exemption or suspension of payment. This will undoubtedly be clarified in the near future. In any case, companies do not have to settle any invoices until 28 April.
Buma/Stemra has also announced measures to accommodate its members (often artists, composers, lyricists and publishers) who, due to the coronavirus crisis, no longer have any viable income by paying in advance royalties for live, radio and TV performances. In addition, royalties will be paid on a quarterly basis rather than annually. Finally, a EUR 2,750,000 emergency fund has been established to assist rightsholders experiencing financial difficulties despite governmental and sector-specific initiatives.
Videma, the copyright collective for the content of TV programmes, has adopted identical measures.
In Luxembourg, the collection society for musical works, Sacem Luxembourg, has aligned its measures with those taken by its parent company Sacem France. Music users are granted a grace period to pay invoices (currently until 30 April), and contracts with permanent establishments, such as restaurants and shops, are suspended for the duration of the government-imposed closure. Businesses can also submit a substantiated request to stagger the settlement of royalties, if necessary. At present, no further information is publicly available on the measures taken by Sacem Luxembourg in respect of its members. However, members should have been informed directly and are advised to consult their Sacem membership account for more information.