Disgruntled authors elect Maksim Dmitriev as new director general of Russian Authors Society
Current management of the Russian Authors Society deems the elections illegitimate.
According to two participants of a conference, which has taken place today in Moscow, it had been organized by the authors unhappy with the current management and the authors’ board of the Russian Authors Society (RAO). RNS correspondent, who has attended the event, also reports about the conference (Vedomosti journalist had not been accredited for participation).
According to one of the conference organizers, namely, composer Evgeniy Kobylyansky, over 170 spokesmen have attended the conference; in the voting, votes of other authors delegated by proxy have been considered. There has been elected a new RAO Authors’ Board and the Director General, the present Head of Pervoye musikalnoe izdatelstvo, Maksim Dmitriev.
Dmitriev has confirmed this to Vedomosti. According to him, now it is time for the Ministry of Justice to approve the results of the conference; the relevant documents will be sent to the Ministry in the near future. In Dmitriev’s words, once the Ministry of Justice registers the conference procedure and commits the changes in the organization’s management, the new Director General and the RAO Authors’ Board will offer the current board to join in the negotiations to put the society back on track in a concerted effort. The first step will have to be external audit of the organization. Moreover, Dmitriev has come up with a program of the RAO’s further development; according to him, it is necessary to introduce the 21st century technology into the society’s work, including automatic reporting technology, etc.
On August 21, an initiative group of authors, the organizing committee of which includes poets Aleksandr Vulyh and Sergey Sashin, composers Evgeniy Kobylyansky and Igor Matet, began gathering authors’ signatures for convening a conference. On newrao.ru, the group announced that the authors are dissatisfied with the current situation within the RAO and want to change the current director general Sergey Fedotov, who has been recently arrested for alleged fraud. At the conference today, authors voted for termination of his powers.
According to Kobylyansky, at the conference, authors voted for suspension of the present the RAO Authors’ Board, Fedotov himself, and his mother Vera Fedotova, acting for the Director General of the RAO.
Conference is the main governing body of the RAO, which can re-elect the organization management and make substantial changes to its activities. Under the RAO’s charter, a conference may be convened by the Director General, the revision commission, or the authors’ board on its own initiative or at the request of more than half of the members of RAO. Earlier this week, Vulyh said that the initiative group managed to collect the necessary amount of signatures, that is, more than 13,500. The total number of authors at the RAO is 27,000.
The current management and the RAO Authors’ Board consider the conference illegal. According to the President of RAO Authors’ Board Igor Matvienko, only the Authors’ Board, that is, a collegiate governing body of the Russian Authors Society, may convene a conference. As hinted in the RAO’s statement, members of the authors’ board have not taken a decision to hold the conference and have not made any proposals to change the organization’s management. “If authors are willing to hold a conference, they have to appeal to the RAO Authors’ Board, which, in turn, will consider the appeal and hold the conference. The RAO is ready to form a working group and consider any authors’ suggestions,” said Matvienko. Vulyh has previously said that the authors had invited representatives of the Ministry of Justice to the conference. “The latter will conclude on the conference’s legitimacy,” he noted.
Earlier the RAO officially declared that the organization was afraid of a raider attack. This statement was announced after the authors’ initiative group had published a sponsored statement in Rossiyskaya Gazeta in early August, calling for an extraordinary RAO conference. Matvienko thinks that the RAO should retain its current form, but the organization’s work should be made more transparent.
Many authors have long been dissatisfied with the work of the societies dedicated to collective rights management, particularly that of the RAO. In April, many renowned musicians, including Basta, Stas Namin, Victor Drobysh, Nyusha, Konstantin Meladze, and Ivan Dorn announced the recalling their rights from the RAO management. In mid-August, the musicians declared the creation of a new authors’ organization, the Russian Authors Union. However, this organization may not engage in the collective management of rights, that is, collect royalty fee for the Russian authors, since it does not have state accreditation for this. Actually, RAO obtained such accreditation as early as in 2013 (validity period of 10 years). A representative of the Ministry of Culture, which regulates the operation of authors’ societies, has recently noted that the Ministry has no reason to revoke the RAO’s accreditation.
High-profile conflicts involving the RAO began last year, when it became publicly known that the society’s director general Sergey Fedotov was the owner of a castle in Scotland as well as other expensive real estate. It was then that the attempt to unify RAO and other collective rights management organizations, namely the Russian Union of Writers and the All-Russian Intellectual Property Organization, into a single association, failed. As explained by a Vedomosti source, the failure owed to disagreements among the managers of these organizations. The current processes surrounding the RAO are a continuation of the same conflict, according to several sources in the music industry and people close to the RAO.
August 2015, the Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the government to make the copyright organizations’ work more transparent, namely, to oblige them to undergo an independent audit and assign a special supervisory council to monitor their work. In July 2016, the First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov instructed the Ministry of Economic Development to “work out an economic model, which would protect the copyright interests to a maximum extent.”