Global Publishing Industry Responds to Meta Licensing Standoff in Italy, Decrying ‘Unsurprising Strongarm Tactics’

music publishers
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music publishers
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International Confederation of Music Publishers director general John Phelan. Photo Credit: ICMP

Yesterday, the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers (SIAE) revealed that its members’ works were being pulled from Meta platforms amid a licensing dispute. Now, the International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP) is publicly criticizing the Facebook parent’s alleged “strongarm tactics.”

The Brussels-based publishing representative weighed in on the Meta-SIAE disagreement today, via a brief release that was emailed to DMN. According to SIAE, the song pulldowns followed months of unsuccessful discussions with Meta, after the Instagram owner’s prior licensing deal expired at 2023’s start.

SIAE further accused Meta of making a “take it or leave it” lump-sum offer without providing “the fundamental information necessary for a fair negotiation.” And the mentioned music takedowns initiated shortly after this offer was rejected, according to SIAE, which likened Meta’s actions to “blackmail.”

Additionally, SIAE expressed the belief that Meta’s alleged failure to disclose requested information was “in contrast with the principles established by the Copyright Directive” – a point that ICMP director general John Phelan elaborated upon in comments of his own.

“Today, the music publishing industry is negotiating to ensure companies such as Meta now obey the law, which is crystal clear thanks to the Italian government showing strong support for the new EU Copyright Directive,” communicated Phelan, whose organization claims that it “represents approximately 90% of the world’s music” at present. “That law says that if companies like Meta and services like Facebook want to use others’ music, they must take a license and pay creators.

“What Meta is doing is using unsurprising strongarm tactics of demanding a ‘take it or leave it’ fee and when not happy, removing music to try and devalue the deal. These tactics are not new. They were tried in France, Australia, Denmark, Canada and now Italy. They failed in these other countries and, they will not be allowed to succeed in Italy.

“Meta 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, namely Article 17 of the EU Copyright Directive,” continued Phelan.

(Article 17 is perhaps the most contentious provision within the highly controversial Copyright Directive, which Meta, Google, and others worked to defeat. Though four years have passed since the European Parliament voted in favor of the Directive, the EU’s Court of Justice only upheld Article 17, concerning the media-related liability of “online content-sharing service providers,” in late April of 2022.)

“ICMP stands right behind FEM [Italy’s Federation of Music Publishers] and all our songwriters and composer colleagues in the Italian music sector to ensure these goals are secured,” concluded Phelan.

At the time of this writing, Meta didn’t appear to have addressed the SIAE licensing impasse via a formal release, nor had the WhatsApp owner responded to DMN’s request for comment. Last year, the company inked a new licensing deal with Warner Music and announced a “music revenue sharing” feature.