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.