Spanish TV channels may face the music as judge probes royalties fraud

MADRID (Reuters) – A Spanish High Court judge has opened an investigation into the role of 14 television channels in a suspected multi-million euro fraud involving misattributed author rights for music played on late-night shows, the court said on Tuesday.

The channels under investigation include Atresmedia, Mediaset Espana and a dozen local networks.

According to court documents, the scam revolved around various members of Spain’s Society of Authors and Publishers, which manages music rights and distributes royalties to musicians.

Magistrate Ismael Moreno said the fraud was likely to have generated about 100 million euros ($110 million) for the perpetrators over a five-year period between 2006 and 2011.

The authors and publishers in question passed off existing compositions as new recordings or made minor adjustments to old songs, registering the rights under their own names or those of family members.

The owners of the recordings then paid off producers at the TV channels under investigation to air the newly registered music, allowing the rightholders to collect royalties.

In some cases the fraudsters offered music students at local conservatories the chance to appear on television playing classical pieces, which they then recorded and registered as original compositions.

Mediaset Espana and Atresmedia declined to comment on the investigation.

Reporting by Nathan Allen, editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan

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