Meta Is Pulling Italian Music From Platform, Drawing Ire of Industry
Tech firm is trying to 'hold artists at gunpoint,' one rights group says of removal of repertoire of Italian Society of Authors and Publishers.
LONDON — Facebook parent Meta and Italy’s largest collecting society are locked in a dispute over the use of songs on the platform from thousands of songwriters and composers, with music rights groups accusing the tech company of using strong-arm tactics to try to get its way.
Meta has started to remove all licensed works from the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers (SIAE). The company has “been unable to renew” its partnership agreement with SIAE and will therefore “no longer make available SIAE licensed works in Meta’s music library,” a spokesperson for Meta confirms to Billboard.
The withdrawal means that any content-containing songs managed by SIAE, except those obtained through sub-licensing, will be blocked on Facebook, including Facebook Reels and Facebook Stories. On Instagram, content using SIAE members’ repertoire will be muted, unless users choose to replace the banned audio with another piece of music, Meta says.
The move affects repertoire from all European countries and multiple markets outside the European Union, but does not include the United States, an SIAE spokesperson tells Billboard.
Based in Rome, SIAE is the world’s sixth-largest copyright collective management organization, according to the International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies’ (CISAC), representing the rights of around 5.7 million Italian music works and around 95,000 members. The organization has agreements in place with 178 authors’ societies worldwide and administers public performance and other rights of 62 million Italian and international works, spanning music, cinema, literature and other areas.
Notable music artists it represents include composer Ennio Morricone, singer Zucchero and hard rockers Mäneskin. “It is important to notice,” a rep for SIAE said, “that in the midst of the removal process many other works from the international catalog and from international authors, thus not related in any way with SIAE, have been erroneously removed.”
Meta’s music-licensing agreement with the Italian society expired at the end of December. During negotiations for a new deal, Meta offered a lump-sum value without providing the necessary information for SIAE to evaluate whether it was fair compensation for rights holders, the SIAE spokesperson says.
The Italian organization also claims the tech company refused to share data about how its members’ repertoire was being used and monetized, citing internal policies. “When it comes to complex platforms such as Facebook and Instagram and their many services (posts, stories, reels), if we’re not given any clue about the amount of advertising, video and music that they host, it means we’re negotiating blindly,” Matteo Fedeli, the CEO of SIAE, tells Billboard.
Fedeli says Meta threatened to remove all music works managed by SIAE if the offer was not accepted. “Meta gave a take-it-or-leave-it final offer when our positions were still pretty far from each other,” he says. “That’s imposing, not negotiating.”
The refusal to share relevant information, says SIAE, places Meta in contravention of the European Copyright Directive approved by the European Union in 2019, which requires platforms that rely on user-generated content — such as YouTube, TikTok or Facebook — to obtain “fair remuneration” license deals with rights holders and provide them with transparent reporting on revenues generated from the use of their work.
Meta responds that it has successfully renewed music licenses with many of its largest partners throughout Europe — including the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France and Sweden — based on the same fee model and terms it offered SIAE.
“Protecting the copyrights of songwriters and artists is a top priority,” a spokesperson for Meta says in a statement. “We continue to have music deals in more than 150 countries and remain committed to reaching an agreement with SIAE that works for everyone.”
Meta’s fallout with SIAE comes after the company announced on March 14 it would trim 10,000 jobs and would not be filling 5,000 open positions as part of cost-saving measures. In November, the company announced 11,000 job cuts, representing about 13% of its overall workforce.
On Friday, music rights and publishing trade bodies slammed Meta for its decision to pull SIAE repertoire from its platforms.
“Meta has decided to use its position as a corporate mega power to hold artists at gunpoint and undervalue their hard work and creativity,” the Brussels-based Independent Music Publishers International Forum (IMPF) says in a statement. “Fair and honest negotiation is the only way forward. Meta needs to retract.”
John Phelan, director general of ICMP, an international music publishing trade association, criticizes Meta for “using unsurprising strong-arm tactics of demanding a ‘take it or leave it’ fee and when not happy, removing music to try and devalue the deal.”
The tech company, Phelan says in a statement, “must obey the law and take a full and fair license for the music it wants to use and profit from. If it does not, it is in breach of Italian and EU law.”
Fedeli says the music industry “understands that there is a problem with [the] value gap and that the excessive power of [tech] platforms allow them to pursue such unilateral actions.” He is, nevertheless, keen to resume negotiations.
“We want to reach an agreement in good faith that is satisfying for both parties,” he says. “We know that we’re not aiming for the moon. We’re asking for a perfectly reasonable figure.”
Additional Reporting By Federico Durante Of Billboard Italy