Sowing the Wind

Enrique Dans. Professor. IE Business School

13 September 2011

The corruption scandal at Spain’s Society for Authors and Editors is the result of bad management on the part of the Ministry of Culture, which endowed it with power and impunity but now denies all responsibility.

The offices of Spain’s Society of Authors and Editors (SGAE) were recently raided and members of its management team detained. This may have proved a pleasant surprise for people who had got to the point where they stopped believing that criminals paid for their crimes. But what could one expect of an organisation which believed “it was bound to be unpopular because no one likes being taxed?” An organisation whose management team saw itself as above good and evil? An organisation which was granted a monopoly - the control of which it completely relinquished?

SGAE has shown contempt for everything - the law, people in general, the internet and its own partners. The difference between God and Teddy Bautista was that God didn’t believe he was Teddy Bautista. They called us "thieves" and "pirates", but what they did was hijack the emerging internet market, deprive it of options, and force the user to resort to parallel markets. Piracy? Freebies? A pack of lies. They simply sowed the wind to reap the whirlwind. And money.
It’s natural to rejoice in the downfall of the SGAE. It was the most hated institution in Spain. But what happened in the SGAE was due to the complete lack of control on the part of the Ministry of Culture which was an accessory to the situation. It granted absolute power to a monopoly which the National Competency Commission considered detrimental and then stopped overseeing it. Corruption in other words.

The fact that the Minister tried to ‘pass the buck’ by alleging that "it was the autonomous regions’ responsibility” is pathetic. The sentence passed in 1997 by the Constitutional Court clearly refers to the management of the property registry, never to an audit of the SGAE, which, in its role as a state entity, corresponds unequivocally to the Ministry of Culture.

The SGAE and entourage demonstrate how badly things can be done in the field of intellectual property. Now it’s time for accountability and for mistakes to be undone. Goodbye canon, goodbye Sinde law. That’s enough sowing the wind. It’s time to reconcile authors and users. It’s time to build bridges.

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