Since this morning, Instagram videos are silent. Stories and reels with music cannot be uploaded to Facebook. Thus began the Meta cleaning operation, announced yesterday: the songs protected by Siae will gradually be silenced, or alternatively the user will be asked if he wants to replace his music with another from the social media library, and therefore not subject to the payment of fees to the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers.
“We were discussing, then suddenly yesterday Meta pulled the plug and communicated the end of the negotiations,” says the president, Salvatore Nastasi. Since 1882, Siae has protected copyright in Italy: it monitors concerts, public performances, radio, TV, streaming, and indeed social networks, then collects royalties which it then divides among its members. Today it controls a total of over 62 million songs, old and new, Italian and otherwise. There are many, and in fact in 2018 the Agcm found an abuse of a dominant position and established a symbolic fine; Siae presented an appeal, which was rejected just a month ago by the Council of State. On the other hand there is Mark Zuckerberg, owner of two of the largest social networks in the world: “Theirs is an abuse of a dominant position,” attacks Nastasi. “They don’t want to provide us with turnover data in Italy, they have an arrogant attitude, like the tech giants they are, and since December 31st they have continued to use unlicensed music. We should report them to the Antitrust, theirs is a criminal offence”. In reality it is easy to imagine that during the negotiations Meta had entered into an agreement with Siae to avoid any legal action, as usual in these cases. So, seeing that the agreement didn’t arrive, to put an end to a situation of uncertainty he decided to make a clean sweep: a long, complex and expensive job.
And if it fails? “They are not technically able to really eliminate everything, they don’t have an advanced music recognition system like that of YouTube, they spoke of 48 hours but the probability that afterwards there are still a lot of protected content on their platforms is very high”, observes Nastasi. “We will act accordingly. I think there is room for negotiation, we won’t let ourselves be blackmailed and we will continue on our way, also certain of the government’s support”. Which in fact comes from the mouth of the Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano: “It is sacrosanct to defend Italian authors and protect the work of their genius, that creativity that has so much value in the world. Working to defend national creativity and the Italian imagination is a precise political mandate to be honored in practice. The indisputable freedom of the market must be exercised within rules shared and respected by all: it is the foundation of a peaceful and productive coexistence. The ocean of the web – he comments – must be fed with contents for which fair retribution must be recognised, otherwise it is destined to become a sterile and lifeless Dead Sea”.
For Enzo Mazza, president of the Federation of the Italian Music Industry, the agreement with Meta is worth “tens of millions of euros”, in a sector that has finally returned to growth for some years (in the first half of 2022 by 18% compared to the same period of 2021). Siae confirms, while not going into detail: ballets and funny moves make the artists a lot, they serve to increase the popularity of the new voices. Sometimes they allow record companies to fish up forgotten songs and turn them into unexpected sources of income, as happened recently with Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush), Goo Goo Muck (Cramps) e Bloody Mary (Lady Gaga). All protected by Siae.
Now the mechanism could get stuck, because many creators publish content first for TikTok, and then upload them identically to Instagram and Facebook; they will hardly choose a different song or use music in Creative Commons. And YouTube is not the same thing, because the social dimension is much less present. “And yet we have just renewed the agreement with them,” explains Nastasi. “What we ask for is data; we are not the Guardia di Finanza, there are no investigations, only calculations. Even with TikTok there were no problems ”. In the rest of the world Meta has always found a way to sign agreements with associations similar to Siae, not only in Italy: why? “I don’t know, perhaps we have reached a different situation, thousands of people are being fired these days. On the other hand, we Italians are among the staunchest defenders of copyright, thanks also to the work of Mogol”.
Perhaps an agreement will be found: “We will continue to strive to reach an agreement that satisfies all the parties, we believe it is a value for the entire music industry to allow people to share and connect on our platforms using the music they love”, he communicated Yesterday Meta through a spokesperson.But in the meantime, for those who want to use music without having their videos deleted, there is a solution: choose from the Soundreef catalog, which will continue to collect royalties for the songs it manages and distribute the proceeds to its owners right independently from Siae At the moment there are 43,000 authors, composers and publishers, of which 26,000 are Italian: there are no Beatles, but there is Laura Pausini.