Yet Another Music Collection Society Corruption Scandal May Lead To Real Copyright Reform In Peru

from the good-signs dept

Over the years, we've covered story after story after story of horrible practices by music collection societies. These organizations, often (though not always) granted a monopoly in countries to collect and distribute money to musicians, all too often seem to be riddled with corrupt practices, sometimes to extreme levels, such as in Spain, where the management of the collection society was accused of diverting nearly half a billion dollars away from actual artists to "friends" of the directors of the organization. While you would hope that these kinds of stories are rare, it appears that when you give one organization the power to collect and distribute money, temptation to cheat is quite strong. Even in organizations, like those in the US, where the practices are more strictly monitored, and generally considered above board, there are widespread stories of collusion and diverting money from small independent artists to big famous artists. A couple years ago, Jonathan Band put together a whitepaper that went through a very long list of examples, showing the parade of horror stories associated with collection societies around the globe.

It appears that we have one more such story to add to the list, but there's at least some chance that some good will come out of this particular horror story. This one takes place down in Peru. Last time we had checked in on Peru, there were efforts under way to put in place very bad copyright legislation, copying the approach in SOPA to place copyright liability on service providers. It looks like that didn't take -- but what has happened is a scandal with that country's collection society, the Peruvian Association of Authors and Composers (APDAYC).
In recent years, the Copyright Office had accumulated several investigations and even sanctions against the APDAYC, but little has this done to make matters change. In early March, there was confirmation that the APDAYC was applying questionable rules for measuring popularity and distribution of royalties among its associates, which persuaded the Indecopi Copyright Commission to order the temporary suspension of the current directors of the company. In response, the APDAYC called the decision “unfair and illegal” and announced that they were willing to exhaust all possible means of defense and had already filed an appeal which has put the decision on hold.
Apparently this has created something of a scandal in Peru, and may have kickstarted some good copyright reforms focused on increasing user rights (too frequently mislabeled as "limitations and exceptions"). In fact, some of the proposals will put things like fair use on par with the ability to exclude granted by copyright law. Some of the proposals are also about reforming how APDAYC works, but it has also opened up the possibility of these other important public-focused reforms:
As a result, there are currently thirteen bills pending that seek to change different parts of Legislative Decree 822, copyright law of Peru. Some of these bills propose changing specific rules on how collecting societies operate, stemming from the allegations in recent months against the APDAYC. Therefore, there is an intent to change the method of electing its governing board, banning re-elections, avoiding direct and indirect conflicts of interest, and the obligation of having to convincingly demonstrate their legitimate representation of works that they charge for.

However, there are also proposals for even deeper reforms. Some proposals include new exceptions and limitations for domestic purposes, non-profit activities, libraries, small businesses and religious activities. Our copyright law, published in 1996, has been changed very few times and has almost always worked in favor of a more rigid and maximalist system. For the first time in eighteen years, there are many bills that seek to put the rights of users at the same level as those of the authors. Regardless of the outcome , the mere discussion of these issues is very necessary and welcome in a country that is moving forward in many cultural aspects and is eager to have better access to culture and knowledge.
So perhaps yet another story of corruption in a collection society will actually help spur beneficial copyright reform, not just cleaning up questionable practices within such an organization, but also increasing the rights of the public that have been yanked away by over-aggressive copyright law.

Reader Comments (rss)

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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 4:11pm

    For the first time in eighteen years, there are many bills that seek to put the rights of users at the same level as those of the authors.


    That's cool, but still missing the point. Authors are all too often at the same level already: getting screwed over along with the rest of us. This perception, that copyright is working as it should and protecting authors, is one of the biggest factors lending legitimacy to it in the eyes of the general public. If more people understood that the creators are being exploited as much as everyone else by the publishers, things would change real fast.

    I wish I could find this now, but I once saw a really insightful article by Orson Scott Card, urging new authors not to sign over their copyrights to their publishers as a part of their contracts. He said, essentially, that their publishers are trying to gain the rights under "work made for hire" doctrine, but that unless the story was actually commissioned, signing a legal document stating that it was made for hire is not only acting against your own best interests, but also committing perjury.

     

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      Chris Brand, Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 4:29pm

      Re:

      "If more people understood that the creators are being exploited as much as everyone else by the publishers, things would change real fast."

      The first thing to do is to convince the actual creators. Too many of them are very quick to defend all the various middlemen.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 7:05pm

        Re: Re:

        I don't even think the creators know how much they are being screwed.

         

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          PaulT (profile), Apr 4th, 2014 @ 12:54am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The general trend seems to be that young, hungry musicians are tricked into believing the status quo is best by record labels who throw lots of money at them. It's not until they've worked in the system for a while that they realise just how bad it is for them. But, by the time they realise this, they're already tied into multi-album contracts.

          Many of them complain, but too many people reject what they say. If they are dropped or get out of the contracts without becoming major stars, it's written off as sour grapes. If they're successful, they're written off as has-beens. If they push alternative types of business model, it's claimed they only have success their because of the "investment" made by the labels.

          It's changing slowly, but sadly too many young artists are still being fooled by the labels even as their business model is crumbling. Hopefully as more and more big name artists start to reveal just how bad it is, things will change for the better. Just this year, one of my favourite mainstream artists, Evanescence's Amy Lee, sued her record label for $1.5 million in unpaid royalties. The joy when she revealed her band had later been released from their contract and were now independent artists was palpable. If that's how badly they treat their platinum-selling artists, imagine how they treat everyone else...

           

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        anon, Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 7:28pm

        Re: Re:

        One of the problems is that studios are really the only way to get your content heard on the radio, not that it will be on radio, but it is the only real way in the US and the UK. Also studios know how to promote themselc=ves and their artists and can spend a lot of money on someone they like.

        Luckily more and more artists are using the internet to promote themselves and making a lot of money when they get it right.

         

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        Karl (profile), Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 9:02pm

        Re: Re:

        The first thing to do is to convince the actual creators. Too many of them are very quick to defend all the various middlemen.

        That's largely because those middlemen are the only people who have daily access to the actual creators, and are actively misleading them. Those same artists then echo these lies to other artists, which is exactly what the middlemen intended.

        How many musicians have said something like, "selling a million records today is the equivalent of selling 5 million records a year ago?" (I've heard it from at least two newer bands.) The numbers may change, but the statement doesn't. That's one of those things that is obviously based on nothing at all, that was fed to them by someone who works for their label.

        I agree that artists really need to be educated about what's really going on, but we need to get them to stop listening to traditional industry wonks, and the other artists who parrot them.

         

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          Pragmatic, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 5:50am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Discussing it here really helps. I've won a lot people over to my POV by providing links to TD discussions where points like this are being made.

          We need to spread this information far and wide: there are many alternative business models and they work. Do NOT rely on labels, etc., to provide you with a living in the creative arts. They do that for the chosen few, but they rip them off too.

          The rest are peddled as a packaged act that panders to the lowest common denominator. Creative freedom? Can't have that!

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 11:26pm

      Re:

      There's a simple fix. Make the copyright a non-transferable product.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 4:14pm

    if they can corrupt over money, corrupting over reform will be child's play!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 4:38pm

    fuck the usa - screw copyrights

    pay the usa back by screwing copyrights....
    set term limits of ten years and be done with the whining bastards

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 5:21pm

    Another rousing example of copyright benefiting artists.

    /sarc

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 5:42pm

    Sooner or later something similar will happen here. Not maybe and not if. You have only to look at what we see every day to know that things are not above board in dealing with copyright. They may be able to keep it hidden for decades but it will come sooner or later that they got too greedy and the deal gets exposed to the public. The question in my mind is how many politicians get taken down with that.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 10:41pm

    ahhh yes more roaches running as the light hits them. Parasites.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Apr 4th, 2014 @ 3:35am

    You know another place that needs this sane discussion? Germany. GEMA is the apex of corruption and obnoxiousness.

    Ahem. I wonder if we reached the point where the corruption is so widespread on the copyright crew that it's actually a good thing since it will spark the much needed changes? Here's hoping Peruvian initiative spreads all around.

     

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    WDS (profile), Apr 4th, 2014 @ 6:43am

    US pressure will soon be applied

    How long do you think it will be before the US threatens economic sanctions?

     

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    chillinfart, Apr 4th, 2014 @ 11:29am

    peru has more censorship than Venezuela

    APDAYC is just one issue with fair use/copyright/free speech over peru. Thanks to KEI leaks about TPP, is known the position of peru over that themes.

    You can quote any content for info purposes (covered by Berne Convention) and receive a takedown because a TV channel doesn't approves it (look about gerardolipe). Websites can be blocked with bogus notifications as made INDECOPI against The Pirate Bay.

    And local ISP and monitoring info from theis customers to filter/limit certain kind of data or even block them (as Claro did against a swedish VPN service, Telefonica against bit.ly or OLO against the spanish newspaper El Pais). On past November, a bill inserted a condition to legalize that measures if they got aproval from our IT regulator, OSIPTEL (that got compliants for it's bad performance against ISP abuses).

     

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