Global Tech News – Anti-Piracy Ad Creators Fined For Stealing Musician’s Work

Remember that series of commercials that ran before movies proclaiming, “You wouldn’t steal a handbag”, etc. and then likening film piracy to petty theft commenting, “Piracy: it’s a crime”?  

Set aside for a minute that big media tries to prosecute piracy not as petty theft, but as grand corporate-scale million-dollar infringements, and has graciously paid politicians millions in “contributions” to “see the light”.  At least big media is consistent, right?

I. Independent Musician Learns the Hard Way That Big Media is no Friend

The answer, it turns out, is “no”.

The makers of the anti-piracy ad approached independent musician Melchior Rietveldt asking him to make music for an advertisement that would exclusively be used at a local film festival.

It turns out the big media heads liked Mr. Rietveldt’s work so much they stole it, putting it in over 71 DVDs and pre-movie ads in dozens of regions, including the U.S.  Mr. Rietveldt never received any compensation and was unaware of this wanton infringement until he watched a DVD copy of one of the Harry Potter movies and was shocked to hear the track he composed.

[Image Source: Cinema Public Warning]
He immediately contacted Buma/Stemra — the agency he had worked with on the festival bid.  They acknowledged that the work had been used, and eventually promised to send him a list of what works it had been used in.  They sent him an advance of €15,000, but never sent him that list.

Buma/Stemra board member Jochem Gerrits suggested that if Mr. Rietveldt wanted to get paid, he should sign with Mr. Gerrits’ label, High Fashion Music.  Under his scheme, Mr. Gerrits would then pocket 33 percent of Mr. Rietveldt’s royalties in addition to the fees he already charged him.

II. Musician Fights Back

Arnoud Engelfriet, a lawyer specializing in Internet law at the ICTRecht law firm, told TorrentFreak in an interview, “This prompted TV news organization PowNews (which had recorded the conversation) to assert corruption. However, Gerrits later claimed he was speaking as director of his record company, and it is standard that a record company gets 1/3rd of the mechanical royalties.”

The incident lead to new regulations and scrutiny of big media companies by the Dutch government; it also inspired Mr. Rietveldt to sue for uncollected royalties.

In June, perhaps sensing defeat, Buma/Stemra agreed to cough up €31,000.   Mr. Rietveldt took the cash, but did not drop his suit.  And this week he was rewarded another €60,000, plus legal fees, while Buma/Stemra was ordered to pay a fine of €20,000 to promote artist awareness of collecting royalties.

The big media pirate was ordered to pay damages and a fine. [Image Source: Ink Magazine]
The tough ruling was a much needed dose of reality for big media, which has long sought to pay their way to punitive piracy legislation at the expense of citizen rights, all while stealing independent musicians’ work.  It follows in line with Canadian federal courts, which recently ordered big media labels to pay $45M USD to independent musicians for stealing their work.