2019 Grammys

Spain's Ministry of Culture Blocks SGAE Authors' Advances, Announces 'Partial Intervention'

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Madrid, Spain 

The distribution of 2.5 million euros was stopped days after Spanish Minister of Culture announced he was seeking a partial government takeover of the embattled rights society.

Spain’s Ministry of Culture has blocked the distribution of royalty advances of more than 2.5 million euros (over $2.8 million) by SGAE, the embattled Spanish rights society. The move comes after the Spanish Minister of Culture announced he was seeking a partial government takeover of the embattled rights society.

SGAE confirmed via a statement on Thursday (Feb. 7) that the Ministry of Culture had “paralyzed” the payment of advances against future royalty revenue that would have been paid to 250 author and 12 publisher members of SGAE via an official communiqué sent to the SGAE offices. The SGAE statement qualified the government order as “extraordinary.”

The letter from the Ministry, obtained by Spain’s El Pais newspaper, stipulates that from now on all advance payments must be verified to ensure that their payment “does not compromise the final result of royalty distributions.”

The Ministry called the action “a measure of control over what type of advances are going to be granted, under what conditions, to whom they are granted and if it will affect the overall allocation of rights.” The Ministry also specified that the payments cannot be made without approval by vote form SGAE’s General Assembly.

In its statement, SGAE said that the administration under current President José Angel Hevia intended to provide all of the information required by the Ministry in order to unblock the payments.

Minister of Culture José Guirao announced at a press conference on Feb. 1 that he would ask a federal judge to approve an intervention of SGAE by the Ministry. At the end of January, more than 50 SGAE members, including film director Pedro Almodovar, singer Miguel Rios and Warner Chappell Spain Director Santiago Menéndez-Pidal sent a letter to the Minister of Culture requesting the intervention and demanding Hevia’s removal from the presidential role.

Guirao specified that the objective of what he called a “partial” intervention would be to resolve three problems: to clarify the traceability of distributions of collected royalties, update the statutes of the society according to current regulations, and establish electronic voting for SGAE members, which has been a bone of contention for members who do not live in Madrid.

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"When these pending issues are resolved, control will be returned to the society," Guirao said.

In December, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) launched a sanctions procedure against SGAE, which could result in the expulsion of SGAE from the global organization.  

“CISAC continues to monitor very closely the situation in Spain,” a CISAC spokesperson told Billboard via email earlier this week. “The sanctions procedure opened against SGAE by the CISAC Board of Directors in December 2018 is in process and will determine the organization’s status within the global authors’ rights community. In parallel, we remain in regular contact with SGAE and the Spanish government and offering all the support we can to bring about a solution to the problems surrounding the society.”