Spanish anti-piracy execs busted for ripping off artists

Executives with Spain's Society of Authors and Publishers (SGAE) — a Spanish copyright royalty collecting society that lobbies for DRM, censorship, and Internet surveillance — have been charged with fraudulently siphoning off funds destined for artists. This is what "ripping off artists" looks like, and it's not really similar to children sharing music.

According to Spanish newspaper El País, the investigation is focused on José Luis Rodríguez Neri, the head of an SGAE subsidiary called the Digital Society of Spanish Authors (SDAE). Neri faces charges of "fraud, misappropriation of funds and disloyal administration." On Monday, a High Court judge grilled him for more than four hours over the charges.

Investigators say Neri made payments for non-existent services to a contractor that then paid kickbacks to Neri and his associates. The contractor's books show that it received 5 million euros from SDAE, but only reported 3.7 million euros of those funds to tax authorities.

Although Neri is the focus of the investigation, investigators suspect he did not act alone. A total of nine people associated with SGAE, including its chairman Teddy Bautista, were detained on Friday and Saturday. They were released on Sunday without bail, but their passports have been taken and they are barred from leaving Spain.

Police raid Spanish copyright society in embezzlement case