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Scandal hits Dutch collecting society over anti-piracy tune

By | Published on Monday 5 December 2011


So, a bit of a scandal involving Dutch collecting society BUMA/STEMRA garnered some mainstream media attention in the Netherlands last week, as one of the body’s board members was accused of demanding a 33% commission for helping a composer and BUMA/STEMRA member in a long-running royalty claim.

This all relates to a piece of music composed by one Melchior Rietveldt to accompany a short film created by a Dutch anti-piracy group, widely reported to be the high profile organisation BREIN, although it has since been confirmed it was actually another anti-piracy body, working in the film space, that commissioned the track.

Rietveldt was told the film, featuring his music, would be shown at a small film festival in 2006, and that’s all the composer’s contract with the anti-piracy group seemingly allowed. But a year later he discovered the short film, with his composition, had been included at the start of millions of DVDs sold in the Netherlands. Reckoning he was due at least a million euros for the use of his music in that way, he began legal action.

A substantial portion of the money he was due should seemingly have come to Rietveldt via his collecting society BUMA/STEMRA, so he contacted the organisation asking that it went after the royalties. But, according to Dutch broadcaster PowNed, the society was reluctant to help, or even respond all that much to his claim. Until he got a call from one Jochem Gerrits, a board member of the collecting society, who told the composer he could use his influence to ensure he’d receive the million plus euros in royalties due for his work on the anti-piracy video. But in return Gerrits would want a third of any money paid in relation to the claim, and ownership of the track for his publishing company.

In a conversation between Rietveldt’s financial advisor and Gerrits, recording by PowNed, the BUMA/STEMRA board member says that he has a reputation for getting things done in the Dutch music industry, and that while Gerrits would have to hand over a third of his royalty “he would make 660,000 euros and now he has nothing”.

As the story hit the mainstream media last week Gerrits claimed his conversation with Rietveldt’s rep had been “misinterpreted”. He subsequently resigned from the BUMA/STEMRA board, saying he needed to concentrate on defending himself against the claims made by Rietveldt. The whole scandal has resulted in local media digging up various other complaints made by songwriters and musicians against their collecting society, some accusing the body of operating a culture of “secrecy and fear”, while others question the size of some board member’s salaries. Meanwhile, one Dutch MP has called on the country’s competition watchdog to look into the collecting society’s operations.