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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dutch Anti-Piracy Group Sued for Piracy

The entertainment industry was exposed as a bunch of money-obsessed bigwigs who do not actually care about the musicians at all. It was back in 2007 when Dutch artist Melchior Rietveldt created music for use in a one-off anti-piracy video which was planned to be shown at a movie festival.

Nevertheless, the entertainment industry decided that the work was so great it used it on several commercial DVDs and… simply didn’t pay the creator! To get the money he was owed, Melchior Rietveldt had to go to local music royalty collecting agency named Stemra which had been representing him for the last two decades. The agency sent him an advance of 15,000 euros and promised to forward a list of all the DVDs containing the artist’s music.

But for some reason the agency forgot to do so. Meanwhile, that list would have included at least 70 DVDs and therefore cost the industry a pretty penny. Instead, the outfit paid him another 10,000 euros “advance”, though by then the money involved obviously was much more than that.

This year, the agency has finally arranged a settlement with BREIN legal parent of NVPI for the unpaid royalties, under which Stemra would receive 60,000 euros. But Rietveldt had calculated that he should have been paid around 165,000 euros, so this past June, the agency paid the musician another 31,000 euros. After all, this week the Amsterdam District Court confirmed that the agency had been negligent in their handling of the case and collecting the artist’s cash. The court fined Stemra 20,000 euros and ordered it to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs, as well as to continue efforts to squeeze all the cash from the music industry.

Of course, the case in question appeared deeply unpleasant, because it revealed the under-belly of the music business in all its ugly and corrupt ways. The agency’s board member Jochem Gerrits suggested that the musician should sign his track over to High Fashion Music, which is a music label owned by this member himself and one that would take 1/3 of the artist’s royalties for its trouble. Once TV news organization that recorded the conversation claimed corruption, he claimed to be speaking as director of his own record company, and said it was a common thing that a record company receives 1/3 of the mechanical royalties. As a result, Jochem Gerrits had to resign and started a defamation lawsuit against the TV news organization. The government had to step in, with the Dutch secretary of state announcing regulations to forbid the conflict of interest that Jochem was involved with.

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