The attorney general in Brussels has concluded a three year investigation into the money trails at the the local music royalty collecting agency SABAM. The attorney general concluded that the copyright group is not paying the artists the money owed to them, and will prosecute five managers for forgery of documents and abuse of trust.
Royalty collection agencies go to the extremes, ostensibly to claim money on behalf of artists and music composers. They target schools and kids’ community centers for singing Christmas carols without a license, and some even crash weddings if they have to.
With all this dedication one would expect that such groups would handle the money they collect with care. However, according to a report from the attorney general, in the case of the Belgian copyright group SABAM the opposite is true.
In the report published today after a three year investigation, it was concluded that SABAM has been keeping money from artists. The attorney general further noted that SABAM was poorly organized, demonstrated a lack of internal control, and was unclear about how the royalties they collect should be divided between the various artists and composers.
It was further found that significant amounts of money were not paid at all, and were kept on the bankroll of SABAM. Aside from the administrative mess, SABAM has also misled artists by misrepresenting certain costs on their yearly balance.
As a consequence of these findings, five of SABAM’s top managers will be prosecuted. The five are accused of abuse of trust and forgery of documents. In addition, SABAM will have to compensate the artists for their losses. How much money SABAM held from the artists wasn’t made public, but it is a significant amount according to the report.
This is not the first time SABAM has made the headlines. In one of their most prominent legal cases against the Belgian ISP Scarlett, the court ruled that the ISP has to stop all piracy on its network or pay a 2,500 Euros fine per day.
The case against Scarlett is currently under appeal, but if SABAM wins again, we will be very interested to hear of their plans for any damages awarded to them. We seriously doubt that the artists they claim to represent will get their rightful share.