What exactly are collecting societies up to in Europe?
Collecting societies haven’t exactly been very honest with rightsholders over the past few years. At least in Europe.
Amidst a devastating corruption scandal, Irini Stamatoudi, Head of the Greek Copyright Office (OPI), recently stepped down.
In a scathing resignation letter, she blamed Mirsini Zorba, the company’s Minister of Culture and Sports, for a lack of transparency and aggressive behavior. Stamatoudi accused officials at other organizations of receiving excessive salaries. Citing one example, Petros Xanthopoulos, Managing Director at the scandal-ridden AEPI – the Hellenic Society for Protection of Intellectual Property – receives $723,469 a year. His family controlled the anti-piracy and royalties group.
The Spanish Society of Authors and Publishers (SGAE) has also been caught cheating the music industry.
In cahoots with major broadcasters in the country, the Spanish collecting society created an elaborate scam. Spanish TV executives would air music tracks late at night. SGAE executives listed themselves as the publishers and writers of each track.
Several members in the collecting society would also list themselves as the composers and would collect the performing rights royalties. All members in the scheme would split the profit among themselves. The fraudulent scheme, which had gone unnoticed for years, has generated millions upon millions in payouts.
Now, another collecting society in a major European country has received a major fine for abusing its market power.
Italy won’t tolerate SIAE’s monopoly any longer.
Italy’s Competition Authority (AGCM) has ordered the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers (SIAE), the country’s collecting society, to deal with monopoly concerns. The company had engaged in a monopoly on collecting royalties in the country. This happened prior to a provision to Italy’s budget law in 2017, complying with EU law, thus, allowing competition.
According to AGCM, SIAE used several harsh tactics, “impairing the right of authors to choose copyright management services provided by [SIAE’s] competitors.” SIAE’s tactics became so brutal, the collecting society has lost over 8,000 rightsholders in recent years. Most have jumped ship to Soundreef. AGCM demanded the collecting society “immediately end the proven distortion of competition and refrain from behaving in [that way in] the future.” The Competition Authority also imposed a symbolic €1,000 ($1,139) fine.
For the most part, SIAE maintains its innocence. Giulio Rapetti, better known as Mogol, the collecting society’s President, said he would read and evaluate AGCM’s “very carefully.”
“SIAE is sure to be able to demonstrate that no violation for abuse took place, and that its work was always respectful of the law on copyright and in general, including in the field of competition.”
Featured image by Carlo Dani (CC by 4.0).