The Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Production Rights (GEMA) contacted 36,000 daycare facilities across Germany warning them they needed to sign contracts with the agency before they can photocopy song texts.
The rules came into effect just this year.
“If a preschool wants to make its own copy of certain music – if the words of a song or the musical score is copied – then they need to buy a license,” GEMA spokesperson Peter Hempel told Deutsche Welle.
State-run kindergartens can buy an annual license for 500 copies of a song for about $74 or about $60 for kindergartens run by a chuch.
GEMA works as a collection agent for VG MusikEdition, which monitors copyrights for musicians.
Copyright enforcement companies have been steadily increasing their activities over the last year.
The controversial company Righthaven recently sued the news aggregator The Drudge Report over a photo that was originally published in the Denver Post.
The company has filed close to 200 lawsuits since March. Before suing The Drudge Report, the company attempted to sue the liberal forum Democratic Underground over a four-paragraph excerpt from The Las Vegas Review Journal.
“They create lawsuits by scouring the Internet for content from Review-Journal stories posted on blogs and online forums, acquiring the copyright to that particular story from Stephens Media LLC (the Review-Journal’s publisher), and then suing the poster for infringement,” the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation explained.
Musicians have complained that aggressive copyright enforcement is jeopardizing live music in small venues.
“The song ‘Happy Birthday’ is covered by copyright,” Howie Newman, a Massachusetts musician, complained to the Daily Comet. Where do you draw the line? We couldn’t afford a thousand dollars a year. We don’t gross that for the whole season.”
Much of the drive for harsh penalties for copyright violations has emanated from the US, where the music and film industries are deep into a fight against online file sharing.
According to a US diplomatic cable given to secrets outlet WikiLeaks, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Business Software Alliance (BSA) played a role in the passage of a French law to be used against people who access copyrighted content online.
The law created an Internet regulatory body modeled after the country’s financial markets watchdog, empowering the “HADOPI” (a French acronym meaning the “High Authority of Diffusion of the Art Works and Protection of the Rights on the Internet”) to create user blacklists and impose penalties on Internet service providers (ISPs) who allow banned users to access data services.
It also created a three-strikes program wherein users could be disconnected from the Internet for up to a year on their third time getting caught violating copyrights.