SAYCO, Leading Colombian Rights Society, Stripped of Duties
SAYCO, Leading Colombian Rights Society, Stripped of Duties

Colombia's embattled Authors and Composers Society, SAYCO, the country's leading performance rights society, has been stripped of its duties for one month following a wide range of mismanagement accusations from composers and concert promoters, among others. The sanction, effective Jan. 31, was ordered by the country's National Office of Author's Rights, which has oversight of Colombia's collection societies.

SAYCO was also ordered to pay a fine and make "structural changes" which include the appointment of a new managing director and executive board, and the publication of a list of tariffs "with the objective of providing transparency to the collection process," according to a press release from the National Office of Author's rights.

SAYCO, Colombian Performance Rights Organization, Reels After Concert Scandal

SAYCO has already appointed a new general manager, former Colombian ambassador to Sweden Ricardo Lozano, and during its month out of operation, collection on behalf of authors and composers will be undertaken by the newly formed SAYCO y Asinpro Organization (OSA), which includes participation from Asinpro, the entity in charge of collecting performance fees.

The uproar over SAYCO and its collection practices began last November after a prominent concert promoter, Ricardo Leyva, complained publicly about the amount of money the society was collecting from him for a Nov. 3 concert by Aerosmith. In a series of public statements, including a lengthy interview that aired on influential radio station La W (which belongs to Spain's Grupo Prisa and is also heard in Spain and the U.S., among other countries), Leyva said SAYCO had demanded he pay $400 million pesos (approximately $200,000) in author's performance rights prior to the Aerosmith show in Bogotá or the Society wouldn't allow the concert to take place. Leyva, who's worked with SAYCO for over 30 years, said he couldn't come up with the money because ticket sales were slow, but the Society refused to make any concessions. The concert finally took place with special government approval, said Leyva in the interview.

But days after the concert, an indignant Leyva paid for a full page ad in Colombian daily El Tiempo with the headline "No More SAYCO!" (No Más SAYCO) and then took to the air on La W, which is known as a medium that wields wide political influence. That led La W's director, Julio Sánchez Cristo, to repeatedly call for the Ministry of the Interior to investigate SAYCO.

According to the organization, in 2010 it collected $37,000 million pesos (approximately $20 million) of which $6 million were distributed to local composers, $4.5 million to local publishers and some $6 million to foreign rights societies. During 2011, SAYCO says it has invested $3 million in programs for its writers, including social security, health and retirement.