Anti-Piracy Boss Spent $50K in Brothels to ‘Protect Copyright’

A former copyright chief at music collections society SGAE has been jailed for 30 months. The former anti-piracy boss ran up brothel bills totaling $50K, but failed in his attempt to pass off the VISA card expenditure as legitimate copyright protection costs.

Most commonly known as SGAE, the Spanish Society of Authors and Publishers (Sociedad General de Autores y Editores) is Spain’s main collecting society for songwriters, composers and music publishers.

The group, which also acts as the leading music anti-piracy outfit in the country, has campaigned endlessly for tougher penalties for both file-sharing site operators and the unauthorized downloader at home.

SGAE’s position is to protect the rights of artists, but in 2011 a dark cloud fell over the organization. More than 50 police, tax officials and staff from Spain’s Audit Office raided SGAE’s headquarters in Madrid following allegations of fraud and misappropriation of funds.

One of those investigated was Pedro Farré, SGAE’s former head of corporate relations and the boss of its anti-piracy office. This week he was sentenced to 30 months in jail and the back story is quite extraordinary.

Farré’s problems stemmed from his penchant for spending time in the company of prostitutes. While some might argue that’s a personal matter that should remain private, it became a public interest story when Farré chose to mix his pleasures with the business of protecting copyrights.

To carry out his work the anti-piracy chief had been given a credit card by SGAE to cover legitimate business expenses. However, Farré ran up bills on the VISA card in numerous visits to brothels where he used it to withdraw cash from the premises which he spent on champagne and prostitutes.

According to Publico.es, evidence at trial revealed that on at least once occasion Farré had taken a booth at a brothel “..at five in the afternoon and left at six o’clock the next day, consuming drinks, champagne, and frequently changing girls.”

All told, Farré ran up bills of almost 40,000 euros ($50,000) on the SGAE card, falsifying receipts as he went. He claimed that money had been spent on meals with guests, entertaining the police commissioner, financing meetings with journalists and holding a university seminar.

The judge did not buy Farré’s version of events and said it was “pure absurdity” that academics and those involved in protecting copyrights would go to a brothel to discuss the topic. Farré’s claims that he went to the brothels to check their music rights compliance was rejected as “pure nonsense”.

Former SGAE CFO Ricardo Azcoaga, who was also arrested in 2011, was jailed for 12 months after concealing Farré’s expenditure.

The sentences can be appealed.

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