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Publishers raise new concerns over SGAE practices

ICMP has raised concerns SGAE is returning to behaviour that is "detrimental to the vast majority of Spanish authors and to all foreign ones"

By Molly Long on 11 Jun 2018

SGAE's HQ in Madrid

SGAE offices in Madrid were raided last year

image © Luis García

The International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP) has today raised new concerns that controversial Spanish performance rights organisation (PRO) SGAE is back to its old tricks.

In a statement released today, ICMP suggests despite being reprimanded by the international publishing community and a World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) arbitration panel, SGAE continues to act dubiously. The dubious behaviour in question refers to a scam dubbed ‘the wheel’.

‘The wheel’ saw certain SGAE members and Spanish television execs allegedly work together to create “low-quality music”. This music was broadcast late at night to generate performance royalties which could be split between the two parties. Despite its long history, things came to a head in June 2017, when SGAE’s offices were raided by police and 18 people were arrested.

When WIPO first gave their decision, SGAE introduced minimal measures to comply and address the ‘wheel’ problem. However, ICMP suggests the intention was never to remedy the ‘wheel’ completely. This latest decision by SGAE, to reject the WIPO decision entirely, will affect music publishers and the authors they represent, both in Spain and abroad, considerably.

“It is important to note that we have been trying to work with SGAE for years with no results and publishers are now forced to look at alternative licensing options outside SGAE.”

According to an ICMP source who spoke to IQ, “SGAE is basically asking music publishers to give the money – that was distributed to them and which they distributed to their authors – back. The losses are considerable but vary from one music publisher to another.”

In the statement released by ICMP today, it suggested action is now likely to be taken against SGAE by publishers themselves. “ICMP and individual music publishers are being forced to consider unilateral actions.

“This may include finding alternative licensing options in order to protect their repertoire in Spain.”

What a concrete course of action to prevent further malpractice by SGAE would look like is unknown right now. “At this point, given SGAE’s governing body’s unwillingness to solve the situation, probably the best thing would be a revision of the society’s governing structure,” says the ICMP source.

“It is important to note that we have been trying to work with SGAE for years with no results and publishers are now forced to look at alternative licensing options outside SGAE.”


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