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Court rejects collecting society's bid to claim royalties for film music

By Luis C. Schmidt
Partner
Intellectual Asset Management (IAM), International Report, February 2009
A Mexico City appeal court has rendered its decision in civil proceedings brought by the Sociedad de Autores y Compositores de Mexico (SACM), a collecting society representing music composers, against Cinemex, a national cinema company.
SACM filed the complaint claiming royalties for composers in connection with the showing of films in cinemas. However, SACM filed no evidence proving the rights of its members in the musical works used in the films or proving that the composers had asked SACM to represent them. The court ruled against SACM as, having assessed the evidence, it found that SACM had failed to demonstrate legal standing to take action against Cinemex. The appeal court was emphatic that in order to collect royalties, the Civil Code and the Copyright Law require that a collecting society prove:
  • the rights of its members or the foreign composers represented through reciprocity agreements in the musical works; and
  • the collecting society’s right to act on behalf of the composer through a power of attorney that entitles the collecting society to collect royalties and take action.

SACM is entitled to seek amparo relief from a circuit court. If the circuit court confirms the lower court’s decision, it will set a new precedent regarding the rules and standards, that collecting societies must observe in order to collect royalties or other remuneration. The decision is also important since collecting societies will be no longer allowed to impose unilateral conditions when dealing with other parties, at least concerning the rights and representation of their members. Meanwhile, users of works and the public will benefit from the new practice in terms of legal certainty.