Italian collecting society IMAIE (Institute for the Protection of Performing Artists Rights) has officially been closed, following a ruling by a senior court, the Council of State.

According to the ruling, three court-appointed commissioners will now "liquidate" the Rome-based organization's assets.

As previously reported, the society, which distributes performing rights revenue to artists, has been involved in a court battle for survival for some months. The Prefect of Police for Rome, Giuseppe Pecoraro, declared the organization "extinct" on April 30.

IMAIE successfully appealed against the decision on May 21. A regional appeals court TAR (Tribunale Amministrativo Regionale, or Regional Administrative Tribunal) for Lazio (the region that encompasses Rome) ruled in IMAIE's favor, but the Prefect in turn appealed to a higher court, which ruled in his favor.

IMAIE's president Edoardo Vianello tells Billboard.biz that this latest ruling is "illegitimate, dictatorial and scandalous. The state has effectively taken over a private organization. You can't do that."

He adds: "This effectively closes us down, although our last hope is the definitive TAR ruling. This should be made known in September."

It is not yet clear if IMAIE's operations will cease completely or whether the government will take over in some form.

They official reason cited in the ruling for the enforced closure is the organization's inability to carry out its remit to distribute the royalties due to its members.

However, IMAIE has been the subject of considerable controversy in recent years. As reported in Billboard last year ("A Royal Scam," Nov. 29), the situation reached a head when the country's Guardia di Finanza (Fiscal Police) began to investigate claims regarding the misappropriation by IMAIE members of unclaimed royalties.

The investigation was over royalty money collected from the broadcast and public performance of recorded music from 1975 to 2000. Collecting society SCF, which handles performance royalties for labels, collected the money retroactively on behalf of IMAIE - which was established in 2002 - and placed it in an IMAIE-administered fund.