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Music publishers call on CISAC to suspend Spanish collecting society SGAE

By | Published on Tuesday 13 February 2018


The International Confederation Of Music Publishers has called on CISAC, the global grouping of song right collecting societies, to suspend Spanish performing rights organisation SGAE because of serious concerns about the operations of the society.

The Spanish society has been subject to various controversies in recent years. Its offices were raided by police last June over an alleged scam dubbed ‘the wheel’, which involved TV royalties that the society collects.

It was alleged that certain SGAE members had 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 involved TV stations playing music by certain SGAE members overnight, so that those members could claim a portion of the broadcasters’ royalty payments.

Last year’s raid followed a similar incident in 2011 where an assortment of fraud allegations were made against the society’s management team. Only one of the accused was actually jailed in relation to those allegations, though he later penned a book about his time expensing drugs and prostitutes to the music rights body.

ICMP says that SGAE’s “misconduct and lack of respect” towards its members “have been cause for serious concern among ICMP’s global membership for many years”. However, the Confederation came into specific conflict with the society last December after representatives from the Spanish subsidiaries of three global music publishers – Sony/ATV, Warner and Peermusic – were barred from a SGAE board meeting.

In a letter to SGAE President José Miguel Fernandez Sastrón last month, the ICMP stated that: “We believe these actions are not supported by law and call on you, as the individual responsible, for an immediate reversal of your unilateral actions. ICMP is outraged by all of these actions, which once again show your complete lack of respect towards your most important constituent: the national and international community of authors, composers and music publishers SGAE has the honour and fiduciary responsibility to represent in Spain”.

Linking recent developments to last year’s scandal, ICMP’s letter continued: “We have learned that SGAE is attempting to replace these three democratically elected music publishers with other publishers who were never previously elected by SGAE’s voting members and who might have relationships with the anomalous night music distribution. We find it preposterous that SGAE would even contemplate replacing democratically elected publishers with those who are now under judicial investigation for their links to the ‘wheel’ practice”.

Yesterday ICMP called on CISAC, as the global organisation for song right collecting societies, to take action against SGAE, in a bid to force the hand of the Spanish society’s top guard. The Confederation confirmed: “Recent developments have now precipitated the ICMP board to file a formal complaint with CISAC calling on it to suspend SGAE from its membership”.

ICMP added in a statement that it “firmly believes that the only way CISAC can comply with its mission of ensuring that its member societies operate according to industry best practices is to suspend SGAE, until the Spanish society complies with basic rules of non-discrimination between creators and publishers and treats national and international authors equally”.

Meanwhile, the President of ICMP, Chris Butler from the Music Sales Group, told reporters: “It’s time for the general collective management community to address the gravity of this matter and to work towards a definitive solution”.