On 29 March 2018 were promulgated amendments to the Bulgarian Copyrights and Neighbouring Rights Act (the Copyrights Act) so that both non-profit organisations and commercial legal entities are permitted to conduct the collective management of copyrights.

In contrast to the previous system where copyright holders are members and control the non-profit organisations managing rights, copyright holders cannot own, either directly or indirectly, the independent collective management companies (“independent companies”), according to the amended law. Under the new provisions, collective management of copyrights must be the only commercial activity of the independent companies and they must enter into a separate agreement for copyright management with the rights holders.

Independent companies must register in the Ministry of Culture’s Collective Rights Management Organisations Register.

The recently passed amendments reflect the provisions of Directive 2014/26/EC, which was supposed to be enacted into Bulgarian law by April 2016. A draft law on collective management of copyrights and neighbouring rights was then prepared, but never voted in the Bulgarian Parliament. As a result, in January 2018, the European Commission referred the matter to the EU Court of Justice and requested that Bulgaria be fined approximately EUR 19,000 per day for non-compliance with EU legislation.

The Directive aims at improving the operation of collective management organisations by establishing common governance, transparency and financial management standards. It also sets common standards for the multi-territorial licensing of rights for musical works distributed online.

Other amendments to the Copyrights Act include:

  • Regulation of live performances – three days prior to a concert, the responsible collective management organisation or independent company must be provided with a list of the musical works to be performed, and a report after the concert. Concert halls bear joint responsibility if they do not require proof of settled copyrights from event organisers.
  • Decentralisation over the control of copyright compliance – municipalities must monitor whether shops, restaurants, bars and hotels have arranged the copyrights for the music they play. Businesses playing music in their premises, including music from TV, radio and various on-line platforms must have contracts with collective management organisations or independent companies for the lawful use of this music. If not, fines of between BGN 2,000 and BGN 10,000 will be imposed.
  • Oversight – the Minister of Culture will oversee the collective management of rights, and approve copyright fees.