Music Piracy Controversy Surrounds Charity Fund Raising

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In Italy artists and musicians have made a charity song to raise money for victims of the recent earthquake and over in Spain, artists have performed to raise funds for a seriously ill boy. Both events, thanks to the involvement of music industry lobby groups, have been touched by copyright controversy.

In April hundreds of people were killed and tens of thousands left homeless after an earthquake hit L’Aquila in Italy. The ongoing effort to help those affected is huge and includes various fund-raising events. One of those is a collaboration of 56 artists and musicians who came together to record a song entitled “Domani 21/4.09” (Tomorrow 21/4.09). Recorded over three days, the proceeds of the 6 minute song will go to helping the victims of the quake.

There can be little doubt, considering the already-massive effort underway to help those affected, that the song will sell as quickly as it can be put into stores and that the result will be that much-needed funds will reach those that need it most. However, elements of the Italian music industry simply couldn’t resist getting in a strike against P2P, when the opportunity arose to do so.

Domani 21/4.09, like any (every) other song, already made its way on to P2P networks and Italy’s answer to the RIAA has wasted no time in taking advantage. FIMI, the Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana, represents around 2,500 companies producing and distributing music in Italy and has been quick to condemn the leak, claiming that file-sharers are downloading the song while essentially trying to avoid giving money to charity, something which I find a little hard to believe.

People who want to give to charity and help a good cause, do so. Those that don’t want to give have made their choice too but of course there is clearly some propaganda value in claiming otherwise. We’ve all heard the untruth “one download equals one lost sale” but this is probably the first time i’ve heard “one download equals one less donation to charity”.

“There are thousands of copies of the song and video made available on P2P networks with tens of thousands of illegal downloads every day,” said the secretary general of Federation Against Music Piracy, Luca Vespignani. In an attempt at escalation, Vespignani says he has reported the situation to Italy’s Guardia di Finanza. “In this case, the damage goes beyond just music piracy, it is damaging a charity,” he said.

Meanwhile, moving west to Spain, aggressive copyright group Spanish General Society of Authors and Editors has been up to its old tricks again and it clearly doesn’t mind ‘damaging a charity’. In December last year we reported how SGAE illegally gatecrashed a wedding in order to gather evidence that the event was avoiding copyright fees due to them. For their trouble, SGAE was fined around $82,000 but now the group has sunk to a new low.

Juanma López Fenoy is a very sick young man who suffers from a degenerative brain disease called Alexander Syndrome. In order to raise money so that Juanma can go to the US to receive treatment, a charity concert was organized, with artists waiving their fees to perform. The concert took place April 25 and raised €56,000 ($75,000) through ticket sales.

Of course, SGAE wanted their piece of the pie – a 10% piece to be exact – in order to cover their copyright fees. After complaints were made against SGAE, the group issued a statement saying that its actions were entirely consistent with copyright laws, which don’t allow anyone to get away with not paying the fees. However, when SGAE’s stance became known publicly, the opposition to their lack of compassion grew too loud for them to ignore.

SGAE issued a statement, saying that although it would still take its 10%, it would make an equivalent voluntary donation back to the fund, effectively canceling it out.

Better late than never, but if SGAE wanted to make a charitable donation it would’ve been in better taste to have done it willingly, rather than under pressure. Here at TorrentFreak we have faith that people are still donating to the earthquake fund willingly too, P2P downloads or not, and they don’t need to be demonized or put under pressure by some copyright group to do so.

Details about making donations can be found here.


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