From articles about the Peer International lawsuit against cuban composer heirs at London Court.

Background: After the huge success of the record and dvd "Buena Vista Social Club" Peermusic (Peer) suddenly acquires an interest and files a lawsuit in Great Britain for reclaiming the ownership of the songs of cuban composers, after decades of allegedly not paying royalties to the impoverished heirs of the Cuban composers. A news souce has stated that Peer admits it has not replied to the Cuban heir's royalty payment inquiries. Here we present some related news, our comments and questions. The author (Guillermo Venegas Lloveras Inc.) has a lawsuit against Peer in Puerto Rico.
But the decent thing for Peer to do was...

It would be interesting to know (Questions)...

Peer-Jagerman statement

The decent thing...

Why doesn't Peer International (Peermusic) does the decent thing, tell the Cuban composer heirs this:
Since we cannot pay you because of the embargo our country has on you, we will return any rights we may have back to you, so that you can exploit the songs as you wish. After all, the assignments made to us no longer make any sense to you, that we exploit the songs and we benefit while you do not. After all, you are and have always been the beneficial owners and the main idea of the assignments was to make money and if we cannot pay you, the assignments deal makes no sense at all. Sorry if we never told you that you were the beneficial owners and what rights beneficial owners have. We do not want you to think that we Americans are bad. Anyway we did little or nothing with the songs for many years. We wish you success in exploiting the songs.

September 29, 2005
Two record labels take up to the musical scene the traditional US-Cuba dispute
Said Cuban composer Evelio Landa Martínez, at 83 years of age while deposing (abut his contracts): "To me it was all promises. My interst was to get my works known", said Landa, while claiming that he was not properly paid for his musical creations.
May, 2005
Writers of the Buena Vista Social Club Songs Got a Rum Deal

PIC (Peer International Corporation) claim that they had paid royalties to the composers until the Cuban revolution in 1959 when a US embargo stopped payments to Cuba.

In the recent Venegas vs. Peer Trial, Peer did not produce any documents to prove it had ever paid Guillermo Venegas Lloveras any royalties at any time. Peer on the other hand, claimed that plaintiffs had no right to information.

The Miami Herald
Aging Cuban musicians fight for royalty rights
By Frances Robles
"The case is over only 14 songs, but potentially at stake are thousands of compositions by songwriters who went unpaid for years because of the U.S. embargo.".
Among the issues: Did Peer breach the contract by obeying the U.S. embargo and failing to pay? And, even if it did pay, was it enough?
Does Peer pay right? See here about the Guillermo Venegas song Llega la noche buena. How over an estimated 1,000,000 records sold turned into a $70 royalty payment, to the wrong composer! $70 are the approximate royalties of 1,000 records. A true story.
British attorney Graham Shear, who represents the Editora Musical de Cuba:
''To Cubans, it's not principally about money,'' he said. ``For Cubans as a whole, this is about their cultural heritage.''

Peer attorney Marisa Berardi said:

''Peer has a long history of promoting Latin American music.''
About Peer's long history of promoting Latin American music:
a. One of the really "successful" composers was Pedro Flores. He is reputed to have died almost broke. Other great composers suffered the same fate. Great promotion?
b. Peer says it owns 19 directly assigned Guillermo Venegas songs for about 51 years each. Not a single of these songs is known to have been fisrt time recorded with a Peer issued license. Great promotion?
c. Peer will not even send music scores to musicians that want to record the songs and request the scores. Meaning: recordings cannot be made for lack of scores. Great promotion?

Long is one thing, effective is another!


Guardian Unlimited
Buena Vista case flies to Cuba
By David Ward
Thursday May 26, 2005
"EMC (Editora Musical de Cuba) in turn claims it is trying to salvage royalties from songs it suggests have never made a penny for their impoverished authors."

The Daily Telegraph (London)
British judge feels the heat in Buena Vista Social Club case
By Harry Mount in New York
(Filed: 27/09/2005)
Peer:  it had always paid the writers and their heirs a fair price.
But Editora Musical de Cuba (EMC) said the poor Cubans got virtually nothing. The contracts should not be recognized in law as they were "unconscionable bargains"

Mr Prescott (lawyer for Cuban composers) said:
- Peer's claims to the music of more than 600 Cuban composers were all invalid.
- "These contracts were so cunningly contrived as to allow the publishers to get away with paying the composers practically nothing. "The composers received nothing or, at most, a few pesos and a drink of rum."
Isla de la Música
The biggest surprise at Havana's Cubadisco '98: A burgeoning retinue of Americans hoping to cash in....
By Judy Cantor

About the Peermusic man in Havana, per Miguel Comas, director of the Asociacion Cubano de  Derechos de Autores Musicales (Cuban Association of Composers' Rights):

"His presence has since become the stuff of legend.
"A  representative of Peer came here back in '58, '59,"
"He  set up in the doorway of the Hotel  Inglaterra and he bought the musicians a beer and paid them a dollar for their songs."
About Peter Jaegerman, a vice president of Peer:
says he knows nothing of  such an unsavory history.
Jaegerman insists Peer never gave writers a one-time fee for their songs
composers who signed with Peer were all given lucrative contracts
Since 1961, he says, those moneys have been kept in  escrow accounts because of the  embargo.

But, Per Treasury Department spokeswoman Weaver:

"the Berman Amendment freed  music publishing companies to pay Cuban composers in 1988."
Peer lucrative contracts:
In 1997 Peer asked the heirs of Guillermo Venegas to the rights to about 30 songs for three dollars, while Mr. Jaegermans was the legal director (in house lawyer) at Peer. The offered contract was not only not  lucrative at all, it was deceitful and a trap, since there was no guarantee that any royalties had to be paid.
Peer bank account:
Strange, for the music of Guillermo Venegas Peer has not paid royalties since many years (if they have ever paid at all). Peer has never notified the heirs of Guillermo Venegas or a Court that it has deposited any royalty money in a bank account. 

A little note: What good is a trust bank account, if it exists, for elderly persons who have no money for food and medical treatment and may die tomorrow?


September 29, 2005
Dice Marcos González, creador de Buena Vista, junto con el guitarrista estadounidense Ry Cooder:
"Muchos de nuestros grandes compositores del siglo pasado eran alcohólicos, bohemios, locos, entonces le daban una botella de ron y tres pesos y firmaban cualquier cosa".

Many of our great cpomposers of the past century were alcoholics, bohemians, crazy, then they were given a bottle of rum and three dollars, and they would sign anything.

It would be interesting to know (Questions):

- Were the Peer conracts as described, "unconscionable bargains" and "were so cunningly contrived as to allow the publishers to get away with paying the composers practically nothing. ?

In Venegas vs. Peer: Yes, the contracts signed by Guillermo Venegas were in fact cunningly contrived and allowed Peer to pay little or nothing. For example, some very beautiful and extraordinary songs of Guillermo Venegas never earned a single cent in royalties per Peer's own data. The 19 songs that GVL assigned to Peer earned less that $1,000 in about 51 years, or one dollar per year per song on average. Then the tiny royalties were then not paid at all to the heirs. This for the songs from a composer that Peer's own internal letter (before going after Venegas) said was the only composer to compare favorably with the great Agustin Lara, the most sucessful Latin American composer. The contract was a sham, in our opinion 
- Did the Cuban composer sign English language contracts? Was that legal in Cuba? Did the composers understand the English language? Was the legal and music publishing industry terminology understood by the songwriters?
In Venegas vs. Peer: The contracts signed by Guillermo Venegas were in English, a language that Guillermo Venegas did not understand.
- Were the contracts public documents? Was this a law requirement for assignment of rights to be valid?
In Venegas vs. Peer: The contracts signed by Guillermo Venegas were not public documents as, it is believed, required by law. 
- Did the contracts have two duration terms, a "life of the copyright" duration and a short one (1-2 years)? This did confuse the composers and was it the intentional? Did the short duration clause intend to mislead composers into believing that if Peer did not do a good job with the songs, the assignment of the songs ended in that short duration? Why do Peer and other publishers have two duration terms in their contracts? To confuse composers?
In Venegas vs. Peer: The main contract signed by Guillermo Venegas had two duration periods. The first duration said that the songs were assigned for the duration of the copyrights. The second duration was for the contract as a whole. The second duration was in fact altered without by adding a note below the signature of Guillermo Venegas. That is, the contract was altered without a Guillermo Venegas signature approval.
- After the contract ended, did Peer retain rights and obligation to administer the songs for the benefit of the beneficial owner, the composer? Did Peer have to pay royalties after the contract ended and its royalty payment clause expired along with the contract? Is the contract clear on this?
In Venegas vs. Peer: The contracts signed by Guillermo Venegas that covered most assigned songs makes no mention that Peer will continue to manage the songs for the beneficial owners (the composer) after the contract expires. The contract may be interpreted to mean that it had a short duration and that that duration superceded the long duration if the contract was ended, meaning that after the contract ended, the assignment of the songs ended there too.
- After the contract end period, did Peer have a right to continue acting as legal owner of songs? - Is the contract specific about this?
In Venegas vs. Peer: The contracts signed by Guillermo Venegas makes no mention that Peer will continue to manage the songs for the beneficial owners (the composer) after the contract expires. 
- Is there any proof that Peer gave the composer a copy of the contract, other than Peer saying it did?
In Venegas vs. Peer: No proof was presented that Guillermo Venegas ever received a copy of any of the documents he signed with or without a Peer signature. If that ere true, as suspected, it was good for Peer. Without a copy of a contract, the songwriter cannot claim that Peer violated the contract. When the heirs of Guillermo Venegas asked Peer for copies of the contracts, Peer refused to give them (except one, the Génesis contract, and there is a interesting story of an attempt to deceive the heirs).
- Did the Cuban contracts have a New York law clause? Can the contracts be rescinded due to failure of Peer to exploit the songs successfully?
In Venegas vs. Peer: The contracts signed by Guillermo Venegas has a New Yorl law clause. That was very convenient for Peer, since no Spanish speaking composer had the resoures for hiring a New york lawyer so as to sue for contract violation. Under the laws everywhere, if one party fails to perform the major contract clauses the contract may be rescinded.
- Did Peer ever give legal advise to the Cuban composers or their heirs at contract signing or at other times, such as contract confirmation time? Was that legal?
In Venegas vs. Peer: In Puerto Rico it is forbidden to give legal advise by non licensed lawyers. We think Peer give much legal advise by non lawyer locals and from outside by persons who are not licensed lawyers in Puerto Rico. Certainly Peer persons in Puerto Rico gave much legal advise to the heirs of Guillermo Venegas, including the advise to get advise from the Peer lawyer in New York. As a matter of fact Peer was told "do not give us legal advise , we do not want it".
- Did the Cuban composers ever sign a blank contract where if Peer filled the song name, the song belonged to Peer and Peer did no have to pay any royalties? Was it legal?
In Venegas vs. Peer: Yes. Guillermo Venegas signed at least two of these contracts. What story Peer made to get Guillermo Venegas to sign such a  contract, we do not know. See here to see one of these cntracts.
- Did Peer establish a de facto monopoly by signing so many Cuban composers?
In Venegas vs. Peer: In Puerto Rico Peer signed most well known composers in the 1950's.
- Did Peer register the Cuban songs with the performance rights organizations (ASCAP/BMI) and did these organizations distribute their catalog mong their licensees so as to allow and promote the use f the songs so as to generate royalties? It is simple: How many licensees do the performance rights organizations have in all the countries of the world and and how many catalogs did they distribute?
In Venegas vs. Peer: Peer did register some Guillermo Venegas songs but many were not registered. Anyway, since these organizations (ASCAP/BMI) do not give copies of their catalogs to all their licensees, the licensees without catalogs (believed to be most) cannot use the songs. 
Note: By not registering songs that were then published (before 1978) Peer exposed these songs to go into the public doamain and the loss of all rights in the USA for Peer and the beneficial owners, the composers. Total recklesness of Peer in managing their business.
- Did the Cuban composers sign "blanket" contracts, where unamed songs were assigned or where yet to be composed songs were also assigned?
In Venegas vs. Peer: Guillermo Venegas signed a contract that  said that all future songs belonged to Peer, in exchange for nothing or almost nothing (the contract said one dollar for all songs).
- Did Peer publish and maintains the publication at present tme the song scores for the songs that Peer alleges to exploit for the beneficial owners?
In Venegas vs. Peer: Peer, while claiming to be the owners of the songs did not publish Guillermo Venegas songs so they could be exploited. More here.
- ¿Did Peer have a permit to operate a business or its agent to work in Cuba when composers were being signed up.? ¿Did Peer pay contributions in Cuba?
In Venegas vs. Peer: Although Peer has had an office in Puerto Rico for many years under a variety of names, in the corporation register at the Department of State no record of a Peer registration as a local or foreign corporation was found. It is beleived that the lack of a registration may be a violation of Puerto Rico law. We do not know if Peer has ever paid any taxes in Puerto Rico. 
- Does Peer have the scores for the songs they claim to own?  If not, how can peer promote their use and recording? Are the scores made available to performes that want to use and record the songs? Wher in the internet are the scores offered?
In Venegas vs. Peer:  Peer has no scores for half the Guillermo Venegas songs it claimed to owns. Those songs could not be exploited by Peer since Peer cannot license a song it knows nothing about (except a name). No score, no recoding. By no exploiting the scoreless songs, Peer is violating its alleged contract.with Guillermo Venegas. A fact is that per Peer data, no income from the sale of scores can be detected.. More here.
- How many songs have been lost as a result of Peer loosing the song materials given by the songwriter? Who responds to the heirs for that loss?
In Venegas vs. Peer: It is estimated that about half the songs that Peer claims to own have been lost because Peer has no scores at present..
- Did a Peer employee sign documents as Guillermo Venegas so as to assign rights to Peer?
In Venegas vs. Peer: A Peer employee simulated the Guillermo Venegas that they had a power of attorney to do that. The truth is that the power of attorney that Peer alleged to have may have been invalid because the contracts were never notarized..
- Did Peer register the Cuban songs at the US Copyright Office so as to protect the songs against infringement and loss of copyrights?
In Venegas vs. Peer:Peer never registered about one half of the Guillermo Venegas songs that Peer claimed were assigned to it by the composer. That favored Peer, since unregistered songs would never reach the renewal period and thus return to the heirs automatically. Some songs were also registered many years after they were alegedly assigned peer said, to elongate the copyright period, an absurd explanation. 
- Did Peer notify the composer heirs of the bank and account number where their money is allegedly deposited?
In Venegas vs. Peer: The heirs of Guillelrmo Venegas received no such information. We do not know why Peer would have bank accounts for the cubans but not for the heirs of Guillermo Venegas.
- Did Peer try to get an American Treasury Department waiver so as to be able to pay the Cuban composers or heirs?
In Venegas vs. Peer: Peer has not tried to make payments to the heirs of Guillermo Venegas, even when the royalties received by Peer, for which Peer has no rights to request or receive and the heirs asked for its reinbusement. All deaf ears.
- Did Peer ever inform the Cuban residents that they could be paid through a relative or agent residing outside Cuba?
- Was Peer also prevented bu British law to pay the cubans from Britain, where Peer filed the song ownership lawsuit?
- Are the Cuban composers represented in the Peer web page, as are Rafael Hernandez and Agustin Lara?
In Venegas vs. Peer: Guillermo Venegas is not represented in the Peer web page. It is as if peer is not interested in prmoting the songs of Guillermo Venegas.
- Does Peer have in their catalog songs that are wholy owned by Peer or where Peer makes more money because thay pay a low fixed amount to the composer or the heirs?
In Venegas vs. Peer:  Not sure here but we think that Peer has different arrangements for different composers, in such a way that it is more profitable for Peer to promote some the songs of composers at the expense of other composers or their heirs. 
- Why has Peer not named (as said in the press) which are the songs it claims to own in the british lawsuit?
In Venegas vs. Peer: Peer made confusing claims in the case For example, Peer admitted that the song Mi cabaña was included in their catalog but then said it did not claim the song. Peer also claimed to own songs that it had requested of the heirs of Guillermo Venegas in 1997... and was told "no" by the heirs.
- Is the money that Peer says is in bank account under the names of the Cuban composer heirs and can that money ever wind up in a Peer bank account? In what bank are the accounts?
- Has Peer done any deals whereby a record company does not have to report record sales with their royalty  statements?
In Venegas vs. Peer: Yes. Peer issued licenses with Guillermo Venegas songs where it stated it did not want the sales figures. As a result the reported royalties are almost meaningless. Anyway no royalties were ever paid to the heirs of Guillermo Venegas. Does Peer pay?
- Who audits Peer accounting to verify what Peer pays out in royalties to composers and heirs? Does Peer pay what the composer contracts say? Can the Peer income tax forms be inspected at no expense by the composers and heirs to whom Peer has a fiduciary responsibility?
In Venegas vs. Peer: Incredibly, in the trial, no such information was presented. The judge did not ask or care.
- ¿If Peer fails in the British lawsuit, will Peer allege that the verdict is not valid outside of Great Britain? And if Peer wins, will it allege that the decision is valid for other or all countries?
In Venegas vs. Peer: Peer alleges to own rights for the entire world except the Unites states for several Guillermo Venegas songs, which by American laws do not belong to Peer. We think that Peer is making improper claims, claims that we cannot understand nor accept. It seems that Peer thinks that Amercan laws do not apply to Peer, an American company or to certain songs of Guillermo Venegas.. 
As a matter of fact we the heirs of Guillermo Venegas do not know which songs Peer claims to own "for the rest of the world".
- ¿Does Peer voluntarily return (or renounce the rights) to the composers or the heirs (beneficial owners) when Peer has not been able to make any or a reasonable royalty payments for whatever reason?
In Venegas vs. Peer: Peer alleged in the trial that they have never returned any song to anyone for any reaso. This would include songs that Peer has never exploited for whatever reason. Amazing!!!
- Does Peer respect the Cuban composers and their heirs?
In Venegas vs. Peer:  Let us see. 
Peer had little respect for Guillermo Venegas:

-Peer said in their internal documents that Guillermo Venegas was "maladjusted" as an explanation for his complaint that Peer did nothing with his songs. 

-Peer described the Venegas songs during the trial as songs that were not liked and thus Peer was not sucessful in their alleged exploitation. 

-Peer planned the acquisition of Guillermo Venegas songs  "without the author suspecting". 

-Peer put the name of Guillermo Venegas on a song (Borracho Sentimental) that Peer stole from another composer and left the name on the song after being made aware that Guillermo Venegas did not write the song. 

Etc. Etc. 

The heirs were equally treated:

- Said a Peer lawyer during the trial that the "heirs had no right to information" to explain away the Peer refusal to give the heirs copy of the contracts signed by Guillermo Venegas. 

- Peer was never forthcoming with the heirs so avoid, before late 1997, producing copies of the contracts signed by Guillermo Venegas. 

- In 1997 Peer told the heirs, in writing, that the heirs were the owners of all previously Peer claimed songs. Peer said at the trial that Peer owned the songs. 

- Peer continues to license Guillermo Venegas songs it no longer owns. For example, the song Genesis continues to be licensed by Peer (through ASCAP), being fully aware of the fact. 

- Peer never paid any royalties. 

- Peer offered to pay the heirs of Guillermo Venegas 70 dollars for the royalties of a song (Llega la noche buena) that Peer said was composed by composer Edmundo Disdier but in reality was composed by Guillermo Venegas. Peer has been notified that they own the heirs of Guillermo Venegas over one million dollars in unpaid royalties and has not replied to the claim. 

- Etc. Etc.


News of 3-6-03 at
"On Monday, Peer's vice-president of legal affairs Peter Jaegerman took the stand and acknowledged the company had yet to respond to letters sent by relatives of the Cuban composers searching for statements relating to the royalties."
Our note: Music publishers in general have the habit of not giving requested information to songwriters and their heirs regarding song assignments, royalties, breach of contract, etc.

5-25-05 Court decision re travel to Cuba for depositions
11-16-06 Court decision re Peer claims to ownership rejected. Cubans prevail
11-16-06 Court decicion re Cuban claim (appeal) for legal expenses