Anti-Piracy Group Found Guilty of Cheating Artist In Its Anti-Piracy Ad

Back in December, Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN aggressively denied allegations of bilking an artist that appeared in its anti-piracy spots, despite massive, unauthorized use beyond the initial agreement.

At the same time, royalty collections society Buma/Stemra was accused of seriously underpaying the artist, while offering concession payments to make the problem go away.  Well, just this week, an Amsterdam District Court judge has ordered proper payments to the artist, with proper accounting along the way.

Not sure if you want to laugh or cry after watching this spot, which first appeared back in 2006.  It’s now on ‘every DVD’ according to one joking (sort of) source.

The situation started innocently enough, when Dutch musician Melchior Rietveldt was asked by BREIN to provide music for an anti-piracy spot, to be used at a local film festival.  That spot was then used – without Rietveldt’s permission – in dozens of DVD titles, including a Harry Potter DVD accidentally discovered by the artist.  In total, Rietveldt’s work may have been played billions of times without compensation, and it appears that BREIN did little to control this distribution.

The rest is actually a complex blame game, with everyone from BREIN, Buma/Stemra, and film duplication studios getting named.  But fast-forward to the present, and the Amsterdam Court has validated Rietveldt’s multi-year battle to get paid – and to chase down payments.  According to details confirmed by Rietveldt, the Court has now ordered Buma/Stemra to pay Rietveldt 20,000 euros ($25,000), handle all legal costs, and continue to pursue full compensation while keeping Rietveldt updated on case progress.

Whether that clearly pegs BREIN is unclear, though ‘the real killer’ seems buried in a complex maze of bad actors.  In that mess, Buma’s hands seem just as dirty, if not dirtier than BREIN’s.  After pursuing the matter through Buma/Stemra, of which Rietveldt was a member, a scandal erupted when Buma board member Jochem Gerrits offered to help Rietveldt pursue his claim – but only if Rietveldt signed to Gerrits’ publishing company.  That would put a healthy 33 percent earnings commission into Gerrits’ pocket, for the trouble of chasing down otherwise unrecoverable money.

And how do we know this?  Well, the entire conversation was recorded – and broadcast – by local news source PowNews.  Indeed, Gerrits offered to throw his weight around in upcoming board meetings, according to translated text.  But Gerrits fought back with a defamation lawsuit, arguing that his discussion was conducted legitimately as a publisher – not a Buma board member.  Gerrits stepped down from Buma, ostensibly to let the matter cool down.

If you detect a stinky odor, you’re not alone.  But the bigger problem is that Rietsvelt is also hardly alone, and not the only artist to challenge insanely complicated mazes of duplicity and shady dealmaking.  In fact, we’d guess that few artists have the persistence displayed by Rietsveldt, especially against such a thoroughly opaque machine.

17 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Borja

    Interesting, that ad is present in many DVDs sold in Spain years ago. I’m not sure the author is aware of that.

  2. Avatar
    oh dear

    This issue took place very long ago. What’s the point in presenting it again, as if it is news?

    And using Torrentfreak as a source? Really?!?

      • Avatar
        Killah Army

        Uh, not sure if you read the article, but a court is now forcing them to pay for all this nonsense.

        I think that’s called an update.

        Guess history can bite you in the ass.

  3. Avatar
    Visitor

    You casually forgot to mention that the person responsible for this mess was fired immediately after the artist’s formal complain.

    Oh, let’s fuck up the musicians all over the world because one artist had a fee dispute with an agency in his country.

    But, hey, it is interesting that you can’t come up with new excuses for piracy and you have to recycle old news.

    • Avatar
      Strauss

      That’s funny. They fire the guy, then forget to fix the problem.

      Nice work.

  4. Avatar
    Dutchie

    BREIN f—d this one up Badly. First think you do it chase it down, get it removed from all the DVDs, pulled from the shelves –OR– apologize and make sure the composer and all others get paid. Major negligence problem.

  5. Avatar
    @nickcicero

    the most ironic thing I’ve seen this decade…

  6. Avatar
    @its_elliott

    Hey guys, remember this video?

    Turns out they used the song illegally…

    The world is awesome.

  7. Avatar
    BC

    What has this got to do with BUMA? The issue is an unauthorized synch use. BUMA are responsible for performance payments, not synch payments.

    Totally irresponsible collection society bashing for the sake of it.

  8. Avatar
    ridiculous

    Funny how everyone is attacking a collection society for a sync license dispute. I guess when you have an agenda, everything is possible…!

  9. Avatar
    @lukerbutler

    Nice insight into the opaque world of royalties, publishers and collection agencies. Trust no one!

  10. Avatar
    AT

    Paul,

    Congrats again on total sensationalistic headline-grabbing journalism. The truth in a case like this comes down to what was put in writing, and until we know that we know nothing. It’s very easy, and of course journalistically irresponsible, to find BREIN and BUMA guilty in the court of public opinion, based on hearsay. Then again, this kind of reporting grabs eyeballs and sells ads, and I know you have to pay the rent like everyone else. Just disappointed that you are using your position to reinforce stereotypes about rights management organizations.

    • Avatar
      Listerzine

      Hmm

      Seems like you might be pointing the finger in the completely wrong direction

      After all a court just found these bums guilty

      Like the law, and a judge and stuff

  11. Avatar
    CJ

    I’d actually argue there’s a really strong case for greater transparency than ever and that the collection societies have been having a lens of us for way too long already. There are very good reasons to apply pressure both from the artist perspective but also the commercial end user