What can I do in case of a SGAE inspection?

Intellectual property

WHAT IS SGAE?

SGAE (Sociedad General de Autores y Editores) is a non-profit organization authorized by the Ministry for Culture, therefore, it is a private company. This fact must be kept in mind because, in the event of an inspection, the fact that they don’t have a public status means their “inspectors” cannot impose sanctions. Nevertheless, this doesn’t prevent them from appearing in commercial premises, searching the material that is being played, and taking minutes as proof.

The SGAE is the General Society of Authors and Editors groups the authors of literary, musical, theatrical, choreographic, cinematographic, as well as any other works of an audiovisual nature. It also groups the musical industry editors.

This management entity is the biggest and best known of the existing eight, which is why we should be very aware of it. Nevertheless, we should always assess whether the activity carried out in our business is affected by rights managed by other management entities.

For example: A copy shop will have to pay the appropriate fees to CEDRO (Centro Español de Derechos Reprográficos), but it won’t be affected by SGAE. But, following up on this same example, if the same copy shop is playing background music for their costumers, they could be subject to pay the corresponding fee to SGAE also.

 

HOW DOES SGAE CHARGE ITS FEES?

The management entities, SGAE in this case, grants public communication licences associated to certain fees. We must bear in mind that SGAE doesn’t grant licences in regards to, for instance, the songs that are being played, instead it gives general licences depending on the kind of business, premise, event or subject obliged to payment.

Each year, the management entities publish their fees on their website. For example, for the current year 2019, SGAE will charge:

When establishing their fees, SGAE takes into consideration the use that each business or premise will draw on the music; for instance, if our business is a theatre or a nightclub, the fees that the “inspector” will demand will be higher. Therefore:

WHAT CAN I DO? CAN I OPPOSE?

There is an increase in the number of businesses, premises and users who are opposing the fees established by the management entities, claiming that these are abusive.

Consequently, a judicial criterion is being established, in legal terms and from the European Union, according to which the fees are exonerated in cases where the musical reproduction doesn’t affect the lucrative nature of the business, premise or service.

This criterion started out with the Sentence of March 15th 2012 of the European Union Justice Court, which exonerated an Italian dental clinic from paying a fee to the “Italian SGAE” for playing music on their waiting room. The Court considered that such reproduction did not affect the number of clients that the clinic had; since they went in search of treatments and services, and not due to the background music.

This is why, when in doubt, it’s always recommended to seek legal consultancy to advise us about our position as users, and help us to manage it.


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