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Music publishers will seek alternative licensing solutions in Spain if collecting society won’t address TV cash controversy

By | Published on Tuesday 12 June 2018


The global music publishing community is piling more pressure on the often controversial Spanish song rights collecting society SGAE, stating yesterday that if the society’s board and/or the wider collective licensing community can’t deal with ongoing issues, key publishers may be forced to seek alternative ways to license their rights in the country.

SGAE has been subject to various controversies in recent years. The most recent relates to an alleged scam dubbed ‘the wheel’ which impacts on the way royalties paid by TV networks are distributed to the society’s members.

It’s alleged that certain SGAE members have colluded with a number of executives at Spanish TV stations in order to shuffle a disproportionate amount of the TV royalties the collecting society collects into their own bank accounts. The scam chiefly involves TV stations playing music by certain SGAE members overnight, so that those members can claim a portion of the broadcasters’ royalty payments.

The scam has resulted in police raids, boardroom bickering and an investigation by the World Intellectual Property Organisation. Then in February, the International Confederation Of Music Publishers called on CISAC, the global grouping of song right collecting societies, to suspend SGAE’s membership until it dealt with the controversy in a way other than just locking its critics out of board meetings.

And yet the wheel keeps spinning. In a new statement yesterday, the ICMP said: “Despite having been reprimanded in recent months by a WIPO Arbitration Panel, the international publishing community and the international community of collective management organisations, the society is returning to its inappropriate and unbalanced television broadcast distribution scam by rejecting the decision of the WIPO Arbitration Panel to which it is bound”.

Noting that SGAE’s critics in the publishing and songwriting community continue to endure “discrimination and intimidation” by the society, the ICMP added: “In light of this situation, which has been going on for years and which SGAE’s governing bodies seem unable and unwilling to solve, 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”.

ICMP also expressed concern yesterday about “the lack of firm action coming from the collective management community to address the seriousness of this situation”, which is presumably a coded dig at CISAC. ICMP Chair Chris Butler added: “We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: it’s time for the collective management community to work decisively towards a definitive solution. If they don’t, we will have no choice but to look at alternative licensing options”.