Can funeral directors still sing a tune? They must now be careful, they could be under surveillance. It is not impossible that among the grieving families there is a spy from the Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music (Sacem).
Their mission? To catalogue the songs played at funerals. At the end of 2019, the institution in charge of musical copyright increased its broadcasting fees.
Funeral homes now have to pay 3.33 euros (excluding tax) per ceremony, compared to 1.93 euros as stipulated in a contract renewed annually since 2006. Refusing to pay more, OGF wanted to terminate the agreement and stopped paying the fees. The funeral industry giant did not stop there and decided to sue Sacem, as well as Spré, the rights collection society, arguing that the music played at funerals does not constitute a *“public communication”*.
The court ruled that music is an integral part of the funeral homes’ economic offering, condemning the company to pay 70,000 euros to clear its debt with the rights holders. In addition, they were ordered to pay 10,000 euros in damages and 36,000 euros to Spré. The amount could increase further since the leading funeral company in France must quantify all the ceremonies organized in recent years to regularize its situation.
This could cast a pall of silence over future funeral ceremonies.