Russian Movie Theater Fined $1,000, Projectors Seized For Not Paying Composer Royalties

By • May 20, 2010

The movie theater “Kinofox”, located in the Urals region of Russia in Kamensk-Uralsky has been found guilty of screening foreign and local films without paying royalties to the composers, as required by Russian law. According to court ruling, the movie theater must pay a fine equivalent to $1,000 USD and has had “instruments of crime”, namely three film projectors and reels, confiscated by authorities.

Some time ago a local branch of Russian Intellectual Rights Society (RAO) informed Public Prosecution Office about the infringement of rights of several composers including James Horner (Avatar), Hans Zimmer (Sherlock Holmes), Atticus Ross (The Book of Eli), Yury Poteyenko and Alexander Voitinsky (The Black Lightning). The Public Prosecution Office of Kamensk-Uralsky investigated the case and confirmed that the above-mentioned films were screened at Kinofox with proper agreements with the distributors, i.e. Universal Pictures International, 20th Century Fox CIS, and film company “Karo Premier”. However, Kinofox didn’t have any agreements to pay royalties to the composers of these films.

The press service of local Public Prosecution Office has commented, “According to the law, the organizer of public screening should either sign an agreement to pay royalties to the composers directly or pay them to RAO, the organization, which manages collective intellectual rights in Russia.”

Russia’s pro-composer policy is in stark contrast to that of the United States where no royalties are paid to composers or publishers for music in films shown in theaters. According to author Russell Sanjek in his authoritative music history volume “Pennies from Heaven,” due to an attempt by ASCAP to triple the seat tax charged to movie theaters in the 1940s, the resulting Alden-Rochelle v. ASCAP court decision established a legal exemption for movie theaters from paying performance royalties for music in films shown in theaters in the USA.

As the court decision has not taken effect yet, theater representatives state that the equipment has not been confiscated yet and all three screening halls are functioning as usual, however it is unlikely that even the notice of appeal might help Kinofox, as the Supreme Court of Russia has handed down a ruling on another suit which all Russian film industry was following closely.

St. Petersburg famous theater “Crystal Palace” has appealed to Supreme Court of Russia for the cancellation of paragraph 24, Part 1 of “Regulation on minimal royalties rates for public performances”, which was passed by the Government of the Russian Federation on 21 March 1994. Crystal Palace tried to prove that paragraph 24, where the minimal rates for composers’ royalties from public screenings are spelled out, should be removed. According to this paragraph, the composer of the film music is entitled to up to 3% of the total box-office paid by the theatres, unless otherwise agreed with the composer himself, or the distributor.” On April 15, 2010 the Supreme Court of Russia denied Crystal Palace in their petition.

We asked one of the “victims,” top Russian film composer Yury Poteyenko for comments:

“Law suits with the theaters, which are not paying the film composers’ royalties, have started since 2004, or even earlier. I receive very many letters about such law violations, or letters from the advocates, who on the contrary are trying to prove that the theatres should not pay anything etc. However, this is the first case which has actually led to some administrative responsibility and something will be confiscated,” said Poteyenko.

Poteyenko continued, “I have never heard about such court cases in other countries, where the legislation also requires paying the royalties to the composers from public screenings, as my films were screened in many countries. Our theatres just don’t want to pay, for some reasons. Of course we have big theatre chains which are paying without any problems, but there are also many smaller theatres, which are aware that they should pay, but just don’t do it.”

Russian composer advocates hail the court decision as marking a new era of more court cases against theatres who refuse to pay royalties to film composers.


By Joel Ciulla on May 21st, 2010 at 7:53 am

Great informative story Mark.

The first thing I think about is the ” Propaganda ” we are fed here in the USA.

The Russian Government protecting composers/performers rights is incredible.

By Caser Jarrett on May 24th, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Maybe we should build some gulags and entence NATO members to be imprisoned.

I realy don’t think it’s a good idea to praise Russia and damn the uSA for anything. Someone might think you’re a commie. Are you a commie? Perf rights for music in a movie played at a theater will nver be a go. People pay enought to go see a movie.

By MATT on May 25th, 2010 at 10:38 am

I’m a composer and I don’t give a shit where a good idea that benefits musicians comes from. Russians are corrupt capitalists not commies since the 90s dipshit. China’s the new frenemy, didn’t you get the memo Caser?

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