Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hypocrisy and "Property Rights"

During the last few decades lobbyists have pushed harder and harder to "protect" property rights. There is lots of handwringing over artists who create but never get the income from their creations because of "piracy". But the joke is that most of the theft comes from the very institutions that exist because of copyright laws. And some of that loss of income is outright theft. Here is an example from Spain:
Senior officials in Spain's Society of Authors and Publishers (SGAE), the country's leading collection society for songwriters and composers, face embezzlement charges in the wake of a Friday raid on the organization's offices. (A collecting society collects licensing fees for public performances of music and distributes them to artists and record companies.)

According to Spanish newspaper El País, the investigation is focused on José Luis Rodríguez Neri, the head of an SGAE subsidiary called the Digital Society of Spanish Authors (SDAE). Neri faces charges of "fraud, misappropriation of funds and disloyal administration." On Monday, a High Court judge grilled him for more than four hours over the charges.

Investigators say Neri made payments for non-existent services to a contractor that then paid kickbacks to Neri and his associates. The contractor's books show that it received 5 million euros from SDAE, but only reported 3.7 million euros of those funds to tax authorities.


SGAE, the Spanish counterpart to American collecting societies like ASCAP and BMI, is known for its high fees and aggressive enforcement tactics. According to El País, "the society has been often accused of exceeding its remit by going as far as to infiltrate private weddings to check whether fees had been paid for the music being played at the banquet."
The hypocrisy of the "industry" that makes a living off IP (intellectual property) is astounding. They don't create. They are lawyers and bureaucrats who make life miserable for both artists and the public. They sit between the artists and the public supposedly to "protect" the artists income, but in too many cases, these guys become leeches bleeding the system to fill their own pockets. They abuse both the artists and the public to fulfill their own greed.

This is not simply a case of an "isolated crime" in Spain. These IP police seem to like to perpetrate a similar crime everywhere. Here is a post by Michael Geist about IP crime in Canada:
The four major record labels that comprise the Canadian Recording Industry Association - EMI Music Canada Inc., Sony Music Entertainment Canada Inc., Universal Music Canada Inc. and Warner Music Canada Co. - have agreed to pay $45 million to settle one of the largest copyright class action lawsuits in Canadian history. The settlement comes after years of fruitless efforts to get the industry to pay for works it used without permission.


The press release indicates that everyone is pleased with the settlement, though it is striking that it took a class action settlement to get the record labels to address their own ongoing copyright infringing practices in paying artists for the use of their works.
Yep, the very guys whose job it is to collect payment for "property rights" on behalf of artists was itself scamming the artists by pocketing the money and not passing it on to the artists.

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