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.”