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Spanish authorities bust suspected law-breaking anti-piracy group

Posted at 05 July 2011 08:00 CEST by Justin_Massoud

It’s common for anti-piracy groups to prosecute copyright thieves. However, it’s not every day that those same organizations whose express purpose is defending the legal rights of artists, musicians and filmmakers are accused of breaking the law themselves. But that’s just what happened over the weekend in Spain.

An anti-piracy outfit called Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE) was the subject of a Spanish government-sanctioned raid on Friday, reported TorrentFreak. The surprise undertaking, attended by various officials from both Spanish law enforcement agencies and government offices, ended with nine SGAE members – including president Eduardo Bautista – taken into custody.

The action, dubbed “Operation Saga,” dates back to 2007 complaints against SGAE subsidiary Spain’s Digital Society of Authors (SDAE). The ancillary group’s president José Luis Neri now stands accused of funneling cash through a company called Microgénesis run by his family members. One accusation is particularly damning for all involved: that money meant for those the groups were supposed to protect (i.e. musicians) was part of the overall take. Some people forget that there is indeed an organization that exists to defend creators from malicious and underhanded tactics by so-called rights defenders: the police.

SGAE has denied the claims, though offered to help investigators as they sift through evidence and interrogate the suspects.

It’s unclear what, if any, effect the raid and subsequent arrests will have on both the SGAE and SDAE. Previously considered vital and above board, both groups now face an extremely offensive stigma: creator’s rights crusaders who allegedly stole from those they’ve sworn to serve.

While certainly not as inflammatory, a recent gaffe involving Irish anti-piracy efforts drew some concern over more legitimate attempts to curb copyright theft. A so-called “software failure” by an ISP led to over 300 innocent people receiving warning letters for illegal file-sharing that never happened.

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