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EU songwriters unite against Greek govt-ran PRO

The European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA) has appealed to the European Commission to take action against the Greek government’s takeover of the national rights collection system.

ECSA submitted its complaint to the European Commission’s competition directorate general stating that creator colleagues in Greece are “being prevented from accessing performance income from their music”. The complaint is supported by the International Council of Creators of Music (CIAM).

In May 2018, Greek performance rights organisation, the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AEPI), had its license revoked following a scandal involving unpaid royalties of €42 million and financial mismanagement by board members.

Rival, independent collection rights society Autodia attempted to fill the position in the wake of AEPI’s demise. However, the government took over the management of music rights, creating a new division of the Hellenic Copyright Organisation (HCO).

The government-run division falls within the collection society’s supervisory body itself, meaning that the organisation lacks any proper third-party regulation.

“Every music creator should affiliate with the collective management organisation of their choice”

ECSA complains that, under the current system, music creators are unable to join a collection society of their own choice. The organisation also claims the government’s “unlawful intervention in the marketplace” is preventing funds from reaching composers and songwriters worldwide.

In addition, the songwriter alliance claims the HCO unlawfully used over €2m in state funds to benefit the new division, violating EU state enterprise funding law.

“The current difficulties in Greece affect first and foremost Greek music authors but also all music creators,” says ECSA president, Alfons Karabuda.

“Europe’s music creators are the bedrock of a vital, diverse and important economic and cultural sector. They deserve an efficient management of their works and the protections of the law just as Greek taxpayers deserve to be confident their tax revenues are being applied in a sound, legitimate and transparent manner,” states Karabunda.

CIAM president Eddie Schwartz comments: “As creators we stand with our colleagues to ensure that going forward, creators have a sound and lawful administrative system in Greece on which they can rely for their livelihoods.

“Every music creator should affiliate with the collective management organisation (CMO) of their choice,” adds Schwartz. “No CMO should ever be prevented from responding to the needs of the creators they exist to protect. This is why we are objecting to the situation in Greece.”


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Police raids and walk-outs as AEPI probe heats up

Relations between Greek artists and AEPI, the embattled collection society purporting to represent their interests, have reached an all-time low amid more police raids on the homes of its management.

Greek police last week searched the Athens home of Petros Xanthopoulos, AEPI’s managing director, and his son, AEPI director-general Dimitrios, as part of an investigation into purported financial mismanagement. AEPI’s headquarters, in Marousi, were raided in February following an Ernst & Young audit that revealed the copyright collective owes rightsholders €42 million in unpaid royalties, despite shareholders allegedly paying themselves salaries of up to €52,000 a month.

The latest police searches came as more than 450 members of the Metron society of composers and lyricists, including its president and CEO, singer-songwriter Foivos Delivorias, resigned en masse in protest at the association’s handling of the crisis.

In an open letter, Delivorias decried the “soft approach” taken by several board members towards AEPI, alleging that Manolis Famellos, Stathis Drogosis and Foivos Tassopoulos (‘Phoebus’) “move[d] against the collective will of our association” by attending alleged ‘secret’ meetings with the governing Syriza party in which they agreed to concessions that are “not in [Metron’s] interests”.

“We have an historic responsibility to solve a major problem that has plagued our country for 80 years”

Metron counters that the use of plurals in Delivorias’s letter deliberately “distorts” the issue. The incident, says Metron, involved one member – since departed – and has been dredged up by Delivorias and his backers, known as the ‘450+’, as a “cheap shot” against the association.

Syriza’s response to the allegations against AEPI has been to sponsor legislation that would temporarily place the Greek ministry of culture, through an appointed commissioner, in control of the society.

If passed, the bill, says Syriza – whose leader, Alexis Tsipras, is prime minister of Greece – would “bring order to the process of collection and distribution of royalties, ensuring transparency and accountability [for] creators and licensees”, with a board elected by AEPI members.

However, Yannis Glezos, a former member of AEPI who is now president of rival collection society Autodia, says any deal is unacceptable without the dismissal of AEPI’s current board of directors.

“This bill will bring order to the collection and distribution of royalties”

Calling the intervention by the government “suspiciously late; months after the conclusion of the audit”, he – on behalf of the 450+ – demands the “immediate dismissal” of the existing board (“You cannot be co-shareholders with those who have been proven to be bad with other people’s money”), and that the new commissioner be a neutral party who has “no relation to our industry, and our self-interest and passions”.

“We have an historic responsibility to solve a major problem that has plagued our country and culture for 80 years,” Glezos wrote to members ahead of a press conference planned for Monday. “In this struggle, we have all European legislation, and creators and the organisations who represent them, on our side. It is time to be with Greece.”

Meanwhile, Cisac, the international association of collection societies of which AEPI is a member, has called for the society to “introduce urgent reforms to comply with Cisac’s global best practices and professional rules”.

While it has not expressed an opinion on the dismissal of AEPI’s board, Cisac says it is “evaluating new measures to address the findings of a recent government audit of the Greek society. These could include sanctions, such as expulsion from Cisac and Gesac [European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers] membership.”


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Police raid offices of Greek PRO AEPI

Police have raided the Marousi offices of Greek performance rights organisation (PRO) AEPI as part of a probe into alleged financial mismanagement.

The Greek public prosecutor launched a fresh investigation into the finances of AEPI (Ελληνική Εταιρεία Προστασίας της Πνευματικής Ιδιοκτησίας, Hellenic Society for the Protection of Intellectual Property) following a report by TVXS that unearthed evidence of the society sitting on up to €42 million in unpaid royalties.

AEPI, which is reported to be close to €19m in debt, is also accused of granting illegal loans to board members.

CNN Greece reports police were instructed to confiscate evidence to be sent by the public prosector to culture minister Lydia Koniordou.

According to Cisac, of which AEPI is a member, the society represents more than 14,000 Greek creators.

Trade association ICMP (International Confederation of Music Publishers) welcomed the decision to investigate the PRO, with chair Andrew Jenkins saying he is “shocked and outraged by the nature and extent of the alleged transgressions of AEPI”. The ICMP board has also called for Cisac to take “appropriate action should any of the allegations be proven”.


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