Some of Ireland's independent music blogs could be forced to close after the Irish Music Rights Organisation (Imro) wrote to them in recent weeks demanding licences for hosting songs on their websites.
The decision by Imro to seek a Limited Online Exploitation Licence from Irish-based bloggers who offer song downloads or streams has prompted fears that many will not be able to afford the new licensing fees, which could run into hundreds of euro a year. Even sites run from an individual's bedroom must pay at least €150 a year under the scheme.
Critics also pointed out that such websites, many of which are amateur, were sent music by artists and labels in the hope that it would increase their exposure to new audiences.
Such is the level of concern that two up-and-coming bands – Cast of Cheers and Mia Sparrow – pulled out of a recent Imro-organised show in protest at the move.
Niall Byrne, a Dublin-based journalist who runs the successful Nialler9 music website and blog, said the measure has the potential to "decimate the music blogosphere."
"It's a blanket fee that doesn't take into account the size of a blog or site. Sure, it has three price bands but lumping a music blogger who blogs from home in his spare time in with a professional company is wrong," he wrote in his blog.
Byrne was among a group of bloggers who met with Imro to discuss their concerns recently.
He said the group had asked Imro to examine the possibility of introducing a non-commercial licence to cover blogs and sites that do not accept advertising.
"Currently, Imro members assign their copyrights to the organisation to collect royalties but do not have any kind of opt-out or waiver with regards to promotional material," Byrne said. "Once you sign your copyright over to Imro, they have full permission to decide on what happens to it licensing wise."
"If you put up a financial barrier to starting a blog, the promotion of bands could disappear. Imro could be shooting themselves in the foot."
Keith Johnson of Imro declined to comment on the matter.
Imro collects royalties from public performance of music on behalf of songwriters, composers and publishers.
Its website states that through its sponsorship of song contests ,workshops and various other initiatives, it is "synonymous with helping to showcase emerging talent in Ireland".