Epidemic Sound Files Copyright Infringement Suit Against Facebook Parent: ‘Meta is Stealing Thousands of Epidemic’s Songs At Any Given Moment’

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Photo Credit: Alex Haney

There’s an “epidemic” of unlicensed music on Facebook and Instagram – at least according to royalty-free music library Epidemic Sound, which is officially suing Meta for allegedly infringing upon north of 1,800 recordings and compositions during the last five years.

Stockholm-headquartered Epidemic Sound just recently filed the complaint against Facebook’s parent company, which is said to have known “full well” of the purported infringement since “at least” November of 2017.

“Meta has refused to enter into a license with Epidemic, even though Meta has done so with many other rights holders,” the firmly worded action reads. “Perhaps Meta is hoping to get away with it for as long as possible. Perhaps Meta is hoping that it will intimidate a company like Epidemic into bowing to Meta rather than incurring the disruption and expense of a lawsuit. Meta is wrong.”

Meta “has actively infringed, as well as participated in, encouraged and enabled” the unauthorized use at the case’s center, including some “80,000 new instances of theft of Epidemic’s works per day” across both Facebook and Instagram, according to the plaintiff.

These instances of infringement, the filing company said, are made possible in part by Meta’s “offering Epidemic’s works through its ‘music library’ for any of its users to use, including to download, stream, or incorporate into video content, for free, without license or other authorization.”

“Meta itself has been storing, curating, reproducing, performing, distributing, and otherwise exploiting Epidemic’s music on a daily basis, without a license,” the lawsuit drives home. “Meta has created a curated library of music that Meta accumulates, stores, organizes by genre and that it makes available to its users of its social media platforms.”

Epidemic knows of around 950 such recordings, per the legal document, but “is confident that further research would reveal additional infringements.” And given the plaintiff’s complete ownership of the works, the media in question represents the initially disclosed 1,800 or so copyrights, for which Meta allegedly lacks “a proper license or any other authorization from Epidemic.”

The alleged infringement “has grown even more rampant recently,” the 19-page-long action continues, with Meta’s rollout of “Original Audio” and “Reels Remix” on Instagram.

In brief, this element of the alleged infringement is said to have stemmed from instances where users’ Reels contain music that’s not part of Meta’s song library (or isn’t identified as part of the library). The Original Audio function then allegedly “presumes” that the non-library music belongs to the uploader, subsequently equipping the Reel at hand with “a ‘button’ identifying that music as ‘original audio.’”

Those who view a purportedly infringing Reel can “simply click on that ‘button’ to ‘rip,’ or separate that music from the video content, and use a copy of that music for themselves,” Epidemic Sound indicated. The plaintiffs’ “own investigation” revealed that a “substantial number” of allegedly infringed songs had been “improperly reproduced” via Original Audio on Instagram, the document elaborates.

“In other words, the Original Audio feature allows Meta to extract, or separate the music from the original video content in which it was incorporated, and reproduce it for any of their billions of users who wish to incorporate it into their own video content…No one, even Epidemic’s licensed subscribers, has the right to do this without Epidemic’s authorization,” the complaint maintains.

Lastly, Meta has enjoyed “substantial financial benefit through advertising revenues and increased user engagement derived from the inclusion” of the allegedly infringed music – besides allegedly “stonewalling Epidemic’s efforts to protect its valuable catalog.”

In support of the latter, Epidemic touched upon messages it had exchanged with Meta execs; the defendant is said to have responded by mentioning “licenses it has with other distributors as purported authorization for its use of certain” Epidemic songs. Additionally, the plaintiff said that it, unlike the major labels and others, had been denied access to Meta’s “rights management tool for music content.”

At the time of this piece’s writing, Meta didn’t appear to have commented publicly on the lawsuit from Epidemic Sound.