The Czechs have an interesting little system going over which the labels are most displeased:
- Music-industry lawyers have finished gathering evidence that they hope will put an end to a Czech curiosity — CD owners’ clubs, which the attorneys say encourage violations of copyright laws.
Industry representatives will this month begin to seek the closure of an estimated 70 such clubs in the country. The process could lead to dozens of criminal proceedings and multimillion-dollar civil lawsuits.
Club memberships, which typically cost 300 Kc ($9), provide part-ownership of thousands of CDs that can then be legally copied as a personal backup.
….The clubs’ existence, apparently unique to the Czech Republic and criticized by the European Union, the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) and U.S. trade representatives, also has apparently contributed to the shrinking of the nation’s music industry to a quarter of its size in just six years. Recorded-music revenue in 2002 of 743 million Kc was one-fourth of its 1997 level and 20 percent lower than in 2001.
“If the situation does not improve in 2003, I’m afraid some of our member companies will get into serious existential problems,” warns Karel Kucera, managing director of IFPI Czech Republic, which represents numerous record companies.
To stop revenue from plummeting further and to save the industry from imminent collapse, IFPI wants to limit the sources for home copying, or “burning,” by closing all the clubs.
The group will use the only legal decision in the industry’s favor. Last year, a court in Ceske Budejovice, south Bohemia, declared the activities of one club illegal and handed down a suspended prison term. The decision overturned a 2-year-old ruling that the existence of the clubs was legal.
….The CD clubs are likely to fight back. The biggest is Music World, based in central Prague. It boasts a catalog of more than 10,000 CDs.
Vilem Hampel, owner of Music World, insists his operation is not breaking any copyright law.
“I have had my own legal analysis done and it shows that my activities are in complete accordance with the law,” Hampel said. “As a co-owner, a member has the right to use the disc. Whatever he does with it is entirely up to him. He can make one copy or 10; it doesn’t matter. Besides, people don’t just do it to make a copy.
….IFPI members said they’re worried that the Czech legal system will not take their efforts with the owners’ clubs seriously enough. Few, if any, offenders have been convicted, largely because many judges come out of a communist system, according to Stefan Krawczyk, head of the Eastern Europe branch of IFPI.
“They come out of a Soviet system where no one had property, let alone intellectual property,” he said. “They don’t see copyright infringement as a crime.” [Prague Post]
Interesting that they would link this ehic of “sharing” to the legacy of the communist system – are file sharers commies? Imagine the RIAA’s response to something like this here.