Italy probes Meta over music copyright negotiations

ROME (AFP): Italy’s competition watchdog said Wednesday it had opened an investigation against Meta, the parent company of Facebook, for allegedly abusing its dominant position during copyright negotiations with Italian music artists.

The Italian Competition Authority said it was probing Meta’s “alleged abuse of economic dependence” of the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers (SIAE), the public authority charged with protecting artists’ copyright in Italy.

The SIAE had a contract with Meta that expired in December 2022. Unsuccessful renewal talks led Meta to cut off negotiations and remove SIAE’s artists from all its platforms.

“Mark Zuckerberg’s company may have unduly interrupted negotiations for the stipulation of the license to use, on its platforms, music rights by abusing SIAE’s economic dependence,” said the watchdog in a statement.

It said it believed Meta had “failed to provide the company with the necessary information to carry out the negotiations in full compliance with the principle of transparency and fairness.”

Meta is accused of exploiting its dominant position in the market “by asking SIAE to accept an inadequate economic offer, but without providing the appropriate information to assess its actual fairness,” the watchdog said.

The alleged unfair practices could prevent musical artists from “reaching the ever-widening category of users who enjoy social platforms,” it said, limiting consumer choice and adversely affecting competitive dynamics within the sector.

Meta said on Wednesday it was ready to “work together to meet the demands of the Competition Authority”.

Meta’s head of public policy in Italy, Angelo Mazzetti, told Italian news agency Ansa on Monday that SIAE had refused any offer below 310 percent of its last license.

SIAE countered that any new license could not be compared to the one signed before Facebook became Meta, considerably expanding the social network’s scope.

“Meta was called Facebook and did not deal with the metaverse, and its revenue and use of our directory were not comparable to those of today,” said SIAE President Salvatore Nastasi, as quoted by Ansa.