If you are looking at Twitter’s Trending Topics for Brazil right now, you will notice ‘#ECAD‘ in fifth position. The acronym stands for ‘Central Office for Collection and Distribution’ in Portuguese, and the hashtag’s popularity reflects the growing online controversy around this Brazilian music royalties collection agency.

It all started last Friday when a blog called Caligraffiti reported that it had received a letter from ECAD asking the site to pay royalties for embedding music videos from YouTube and Vimeo.

caligraffiti 520x331 Agency faces backlash for trying to charge Brazilian bloggers who embed YouTube videos

The blog post quickly generated negative online buzz, to which ECAD decided to answer yesterday with a “clarification” on its Facebook page and on its (1999-style) website, roughly translated below (bold is ours):

“The Central Office for Collection and Distribution – Ecad – agency that has been operating since 1977 in defense of the copyright of artists whose musical works are performed publicly in Brazil, clarifies that its activity doesn’t focus on collecting copyright royalties from blogs and small websites.

What happens, however, is routine monitoring of users who perform music publicly, in order to promote awareness of the fact that the copyright fee for public musical performance is a right of the composers, performers and musicians, and should be paid whenever the protected music is performed publicly.

The right to public performance in digital mode is covered by the concept of transmission present in art. 5. section II of the Copyright Act 9,610/98, which (…) also contemplates the Internet.

In accordance with article 31 of the 9,610/98 Act, the various modalities of music use are independent of each other, and the authorization for one of them does not extend to the other. This means that if a social network like YouTube, for example, makes a copyright payment for the public performance of music videos that it carries, the use of these videos by a third party represents a new use, and therefore triggers a new authorisation/licence and a new payment. What should be noted, above all, is that behind the songs that are performed on the Internet, there is the work of several professionals who make their living from music business and should be rewarded for their work.

Finally, we would like to inform that the Ecad has distributed, in 2011, R$2.6 million in royalties for public performance of music on digital media, benefiting more than 21,000 composers, performers, musicians, publishers and recorded music producers, an increase of 119% compared to 2010, the year that distribution for this segment started.”

As you can imagine, this isn’t exactly the answer the Internetz was hoping for; while clarifying that it wouldn’t necessarily go after every single blogger in the country, it still believes that these do owe copyright fees for YouTube videos, despite the fact that all they do is embedding such content. As the release itself points out, ECAD already asks YouTube to pay copyright fees, following an agreement in June 2011.

The fact that ECAD insists on the amounts it redistributes to artists also has to do with earlier controversy around its activities. Often criticized in Brazil and defaced by Anonymous in January, ECAD also went under senatorial investigation for supposed irregularities.

In this context, mockery and negative comments on the agency are spreading fast, and the Brazilian website YouPix made a round-up of memes and tweets about ECAD. This new episode clearly left Brazilian Internet users inspired; here are a couple of them to give you an idea:

ecadmeme6 on naosalvo Agency faces backlash for trying to charge Brazilian bloggers who embed YouTube videos
Singing Adele? You know who is going to pay for it? Someone like you

 

“Honey, your voice is music to my ears.” – Then give me $200, because I work at ECAD. #ECAD

Yet, this is no laughing matter. Can you imagine if you had to pay for the videos you embed on your blog, Tumblr or Twitter feed?