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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

SOZA

“SOZA, thank you that you are/For buying me a new car/For all the good times/For being fine,” sings the alternative band Chiki liki tu-a in one of the world’s few hits dedicated to a collective rights’ organisation.

“SOZA, thank you that you are/For buying me a new car/For all the good times/For being fine,” sings the alternative band Chiki liki tu-a in one of the world’s few hits dedicated to a collective rights’ organisation.

But mocking the Slovak Performing and Mechanical Rights Society (SOZA) has recently become a mainstream activity in no way limited to underground artists dissatisfied with not getting their share of extracted royalty money.

Asking villages to pay royalties for kindergarteners singing at Christmas parties and Mother’s Day celebrations is obviously something that doesn’t earn you much sympathy – especially when it’s folk songs with no known authors that the children are singing.

Not all the criticism is justified. The protection of musicians’ rights is important, especially in a country that is not able to generate much revenue for its artists. The current legislation may have its flaws but the general principles have their logic.

Small children are cute, but they too have to be regulated. Just think of all the corporations and politicians that use them for promotion. And some of the municipalities involved in the current debate probably did not do all their paperwork right.

It is also true that the state collects much more money, often with greater arrogance, and uses it much less wisely and only rarely suffers this much disdain.

Nonetheless, the PR disaster for SOZA is deserved. SOZA’s rules lack transparency in how much it is to be paid and how much it distributes to artists. It rarely listens to the cries of organisers who give room to alternative artists, make little or no money, and still have to pay.

And as the recent outcries illustrate, the organisation tends to go over the line by asking for money even when they have no right to do so. And also by trying to trick people into thinking SOZA has a right to issue fines.

The recently deceased Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, who also was president of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, may have been right that we are “living in a world of fools”.

But if you treat people that way, you cannot be surprised when their love for you is not too deep.

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