Copyright group wants libraries to pay for reading books to kids

By Muriel Kane
Sunday, March 18, 2012 17:35 EDT
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US sailors reading to children in Little Rock library via Wikimedia
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The latest seeming overreach on the part of the copyright industry comes by way of a Belgian association known as SABAM, whose members include authors, artists, musicians, and film directors. According to Robin Wauters at The Next Web, SABAM recently began notifying local libraries that it intended to charge them for having books read out loud to children.

“Twice a month, the library in Dilbeek welcomes about 10 children to introduce them to the magical world of books,” Wauters explains, citing a report in the local newspaper. “A representative of the library in question is quoted in the De Morgen report as saying there’s no budget to compensate people who read to the kids, relying instead on volunteers.”

“Each time a dozen or so children attend,” library worker Alexandra Vervaecke told the newspaper. “A while ago we were suddenly contacted by SABAM and told that we have to pay. I have done the calculations: for us it would amount to 250 euro per year.”

That would amount to over $300 for just this one small local library.

Vervaecke added that even older works, like Grimm’s Fairy Tales, are not exempt from SABAM’s fees, because any current edition of the stories would be under copyright.

SABAM insists that it has the right to demand payments, with a spokesperson explaining, “For libraries there are no exceptions to the law. They are public places and so royalties must be paid for a public reading session.”

Since the story came out, however, the group has declared that there was a misunderstanding and 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.

SABAM is already notorious in Europe for its copyright-related activities. The European Court of Justice recently ruled that a social networking site targeted by SABAM could not be compelled to filter content because that would violate the privacy of its users.

In addition, an ongoing lawsuit originally brought by a Belgian composer in 2004 over alleged “breaches” in his royalty payments has led to accusations that SABAM had been falsifying accounts to cover up bribes, abuse of trust, copyright fraud and embezzlement.

Photo by U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Barbara L. Bailey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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