Belgium’s performance rights organisation Sabam has been found guilty of unfair commercial practices after it imposed increased tariffs on concerts and festivals.
A court in Brussels found that the copyright fee hike introduced in 2017 was unlawful. The hearing came after a case was brought by a group of event organisers.
Several operators, including Live Nation and PSE Belgium, alleged that their costs had risen by around a third when fees based on revenue of 3.25-6% for festivals and 3.5-8% for concerts were introduced.
The increase in tariffs was pushed through by Sabam after negotiations with industry groups failed throughout 2016. Controversially, it included sponsorship and subsidies in festivals’ revenues when calculating the fee owed.
In its ruling, the Commercial Court of Brussels noted: “The court considers that Sabam is guilty of unfair commercial practices by significantly increasing festival fees (up to 37%).”
The court considers that “refusing to deduct other expenses than the booking fees, VAT, communal taxes and public transport costs of the calculation base and insufficiently take into account the number of works in the repertoire of Sabam allows for the application of very low minimum rates, disproportionate to the work done.”
In response Sabam, which was fined for its action, said it is open to dialogue with organisers of festivals and concerts.