Copyright, the cause that can change the rules on who collects it in Italy (again)

Copyright, the cause that can change the rules on who collects it in Italy (again)


It seemed like a finished story, that of the battle over the collection of copyright in Italy. In 2019 , after years of tug of war, Siae , which for years had a monopoly in the sector, and its antagonist par excellence, the startup Soundreef , had laid down their arms, signing an agreement which recognized the latter being able to collect the copyright of its members. Four years later however, just as the event par excellence of Italian music, the Sanremo Festival, is being celebrated, a new chapter could be added. And to question the foundations on which peace between Siae and Soundreef was built.

Kirchberg District, Luxembourg, 9 February. At the hearing before the Court of Justice of the European Union are Soundreef and Jamendo, another copyright collection company, which has called the former into question. According to Jamendo, the Italian law that liberalized copyright management does not comply with EU rules. A battle conducted first by Soundreef, which in 2014 had targeted the monopoly of Siae.

For now the Community Court, whose task is to supervise that the rules of the 27 are applied in a uniform way, has heard the parties. The “conclusion” of the Court's Advocate General is expected on 11 May, ie an impartial legal opinion on the matter. Then it will be up to the judges to pronounce, not before the autumn. But what if the verdict is in favor of Jamendo? In short, what if Luxembourg recognized that Italian law does not in fact follow the European rules on copyright?

The story:

The Soundreef case The lawsuit with Jamendo A half-finished reform What is Soundreef, the startup that wants to compete with Siae

The Soundreef case

To understand it, we have to rewind the tape. It's the fall of 2016. Soundreef, a London startup founded by Davide D'Atri, is launching an offensive against Siae, the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers, a public body that has been involved in protecting intellectual works since 1882. Soundreef, which until then only covered the collection of copyright for live music and soundtracks from shops, announces that from 2017 it will also cover radio, television, internet and phonomechanical, i.e. the printing of records. That is the most delicious slice of the trade. With two important new members, Fedez and Gigi D'Alessio, Soundreef demands that Italy comply with a 2014 European directive, number 26 known as Barnier, which imposes the liberalization of the copyright collection market , worth 5 billion euros every year in the Old Continent.

A tug of war begins between Siae and Soundreef. The most striking case is Sanremo 2017. On the stage of the Ariston there are four artists from D'Atri's team, but the division of rights for each song, which members of Siae and the startup have worked on, complicates things. And it doesn't get any better when the government decides to deal with the transposition of the Barnier directive. Because, in fact, Rome accepts the European rules halfway. Liberalization yes, but only if a collective management organization (OGC) and not an independent management entity (EGI) is responsible for collecting copyright. Out of bureaucracy, the ogc are non-profit associations such as Siae, cooperatives or even companies, provided they are under the control of their clients. By Egi, on the other hand, we mean private companies that professionally collect rights on behalf of others. In fact, Italian rules cut companies like Soundreef out again. So much so that the latter, in order to operate in Italy, had to set up an association of its clients: Lea (Free editors and authors).

According to the Antitrust, Siae is in a dominant position on copyright (but the fine is symbolic)

The lawsuit with Jamendo

As we said at the beginning, in 2019 the two defendants lay down their arms. In a note, Siae announces that it recognizes the legitimacy of the collection that Lea carries out on behalf of Soundreef subscribers, that those who use music must sign a supplementary license with the new body and that the various players have developed contracts and agreements to share the various entitlements. Chapter closed? Yes, until Soundreef sues Jamendo, a Luxembourg company that deals with in-store radios. As told to by the lawyer Giovanni Maria Riccio, from the E-Lex law firm, who assists Soundreef with his colleagues Adriana Peduto and Dario Malandrino, the lawsuit stems from the fact that "in Italy a communication to the Guarantor Authority of communications [Agcom, ed] in which it declares to carry out the intermediation activity on copyright, which Jamendo has not done". The Luxembourg group, specifically, deals with radio instores, which are in fact playlists managed between supplier and shop.

The case, initiated in 2022 in the Court of Rome, goes to the Court of Justice of the European Union because Jamendo, which according to Italian rules is an Egi, raises an objection. whether the Barnier directive allows the collection of copyright in a country to be restricted only to the OGC and not to the Egi, as established by Italy.Because, if this were not the case, it means that Rome is violating EU rules. recognized the difference However, what seemed like a story now over could experience a sudden second half.

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A half-finished reform

Soundreef, which reported 26,000 subscribers in 2021, did not has stopped calling for more liberalization. On the occasion of the works for the competition law, on February 25, 2022 the startup sent a memo to the Senate, explaining that it had had to resort to Lea in order not to leave Italy, "with the inconveniences, increased costs and slowdowns all entire process of collecting and distributing compensation that this entails”. “ On a general level, we estimate that the total costs suffered by Soundreef in 2021 are around 1.2 million euros and that this cost will increase in 2022 to just under 2 million euros ”, wrote the company, which stamped the rules Italian companies as “ an obstacle to the free movement of services and to the freedom of establishment ”.

According to Soundreef, it is “necessary to complete the process started, reaching a solution that finally makes possible the development of a true pluralistic market of copyright intermediation services in Italy” in order to ensure “even independently managed entities the possibility of operating in our country, as well as in all other European states ”. A month after that note, Soundreef wrote back to the Senate, warning that the matter would end up on the benches of the Community Court. “Therefore, the possibility is envisaged that any pronouncement of non-compliance of Italian legislation with the European one will determine an uncontrolled liberalization of the sector, allowing each company to operate on the Italian market without submitting to those criteria and parameters currently identified by the national legislator in order to protect the entire sector and causing potential problems for users, authors and composers, in the light of the possible proliferation of companies not regulated and controlled by the national authorities”, warned Soundreef Palazzo Madama. No leaf has moved. We'll see if the European judges will take care of shaking the tree.

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