Spanish action against software pirates is likely to stall after one of the leading copyright cops has become embroiled in a corruption scandal. Senior officials in Spain's Society of Authors and Publishers (SGAE), the country's leading collection society for songwriters and composers, face embezzlement charges after coppers raided their offices.
The outfit collects licensing fees for public performances of music and distributes them to artists and record companies. It has been in the forefront of the anti-piracy crusade. SGAE is the Spanish counterpart to American collecting societies like the BMI, is known for its high fees and aggressive enforcement.
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." Prosecutors claim that 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.
Investigators suspect he did not act alone. A total of nine people associated with SGAE, including its chairman Teddy Bautista, were detained on Friday and Saturday. SGAE's twisted the arms of politicians into bringing in a 'digital canon' which is a blank media tax on digital devices such as CD players or music-enabled mobiles. If the charges stick it seems that while it has been painting P2P pirates as immoral crooks, it might have been acting a little illegally itself.