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Meta Hit With Massive Piracy Lawsuit Over Royalty Free Music Epidemic Sound *TechTribune France

Faced with the prospect of copyright strikes, Content ID claims and potential account loss, thousands of YouTubers, TikTok users and other content creators are using music provided by Epidemic Sound .

Founded in 2009 and based in Sweden, Epidemic Sound has a library of over 35,000 musical soundtracks and 90,000 sound effects.

The license is offered on a subscription basis for as little as 9 euros per month and for this, personal creators can use music from Epidemic and monetize a channel on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and Twitch.

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Commercial users posting content for clients and businesses pay a slightly higher rate. Enterprise users pay even more but are free to include Epidemic Sound content in TV shows and commercials, for example. According to a lawsuit just filed in a California district court, Meta is using Epidemic Sound content on a massive scale, but not paying the company a single penny for the privilege.

Massive and creeping copyright infringement

“This action aims to end the theft of music created by hundreds of musicians, songwriters, producers and singers, committed knowingly, intentionally and brazenly by Meta on its social media platforms Facebook and Instagram on a daily basis”, begins the complaint.

“Defendant Meta is not only aware of this breach. He actively infringed, participated in, encouraged and permitted such infringement.

This type of language has already been seen in copyright infringement lawsuits brought against user-generated content platforms. Often, the platform’s response is that if rights holders send a DMCA-like notice, they will remove infringing content posted by their users. The complaint filed by Epidemic goes much further.

Epidemic’s licenses allow its licensees (subscribers) to incorporate Epidemic’s tracks into their own content, but no permission is given to license, sublicense, distribute or otherwise authorize the use of Epidemic’s content to third parties. If third parties such as Meta wish to use content from Epidemic directly, they must obtain their own license under the appropriate terms.

The lawsuit claims that Meta’s Facebook and Instagram use content from Epidemic as if it were their own, making that content available to Facebook and Instagram users, but without a license in place to do so.

“Meta itself has stored, curated, reproduced, performed, distributed and otherwise exploited Epidemic’s music on a daily basis, without license,” Epidemic’s complaint reads.

The numbers in the complaint are significant. Epidemic claims its music is available on millions of videos viewed billions of times. About 50,000 counterfeit videos and 30,000 new uploads containing Epidemic’s music are uploaded to Facebook and Instagram, respectively, daily.

The company estimates that approximately 94% of content using Epidemic’s music on Meta’s platforms is unlicensed and therefore infringing.

Meta has incorporated epidemic content into its music library

Epidemic’s allegations are potentially extremely serious. The company alleges that Meta has created an organized library of music that it stores and organizes by genre. This library is made available to Facebook and Instagram users not only for downloading and streaming, but also for use in user-generated video content and posts.

“Epidemic is aware of over 950 of its music tracks that have been reproduced, stored, made available and distributed to its users by Meta through its music library or through its other license-free content sharing tools. Epidemic is confident that further research would reveal additional violations,” the complaint reads.

In any case, Epidemic is the copyright owner of the sound recordings and underlying musical compositions, so more than 1,800 copyrighted works would be infringed by Meta. Epidemic says Meta generates revenue through this infringement, but so far Meta has not licensed or shared any of its ad revenue with the music company.

Alleged direct use of infringing content

The complaint alleges that Meta’s infringement has been “even more rampant” recently, in part due to Meta’s creation of tools and features that allow users of its platforms to infringe Epidemic’s rights. Two Instagram features – Original Audio and Reels Remix – are specifically called out.

When Instagram users create a short music video called Reel, they can search the platform’s audio library for music to go along with the Reel. If the reel contains music that is not detected by Instagram as being included in its library, the “Original Audio” feature assumes that the content belongs to the user who posts the reel.

When other users view this reel, a button appears that allows them to rip the music to include in their own reel. Music can also be added to their personal library on the platform for future use.

“Meta provides the tools for the viewer to sync that music to that viewer’s own Reel and promotes this tool publicly. Meta acknowledges that this unlimited copying, sharing, syncing and distribution of music, licensed or unlicensed, is the intent behind the Original Audio feature.

“[T]The Original Audio feature allows Meta to extract or separate music from the original video content it was embedded into, and reproduce it for any of their billions of users who wish to incorporate it into their own content. video, which Meta (or anyone else) has the authority to offer, reproduce, distribute or otherwise use such music in the first place.

“No one, even registered Epidemic subscribers, has the right to do so without Epidemic’s permission,” the complaint adds.

Reels Remix allows users to take another user’s audiovisual content, including any music, and incorporate it into their own Reel. Epidemic claims the feature encourages and contributes to “exponential infringement,” whereby one user’s infringing acts are replicated by a number of others.

Meta has an outbreak “stuck”

Meta offers a tool called “Rights Manager” designed to help rightsholders “manage, authorize, protect and generate value from their video, audio and image content on Facebook and Instagram”. According to the complaint, Meta granted Epidemic access to Rights Manager for video content but refused to grant access for audio content management.

“Meta’s denial continued despite Epidemic’s repeated explanations that the video rights management tool was woefully inadequate to monitor or protect its music on Meta’s large-scale platforms,” ​​the company says. .

“Meta’s unwarranted and unexplained refusal to provide Epidemic with access to its rights management tool for music content has enabled and continues to contribute to the widespread infringement of Epidemic’s music on its platforms.”

The lawsuit states that in addition to user infringement, Meta is aware that it “actively stores, offers, preserves, reproduces, performs and distributes” Epidemic’s unlicensed music, through its music library and “Reels Remix” and “Original Audio Features”.

Epidemic says Meta claims to have licenses with other distributors that allow it to use certain tracks from Epidemic but Epidemic says no third parties are authorized to provide rights to Meta.

Claims of copyright infringement

The Complaint states that by making or causing to be made unauthorized reproductions of Epidemic’s copyrighted works and then made available for permanent download, broadcast and synchronization, Meta is committing a direct and willful violation of the copyright. Accordingly, Epidemic is entitled to maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per work, to a minimum of $142 million in damages.

Epidemic says Meta’s music library and associated Original Audio and Reels Remix features encourage and provide tools for Facebook and Instagram users to infringe its copyrights. The complaint again seeks maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per work for willful infringement, to a minimum of $142 million in damages.

The complaint states that Meta is also liable as a contributory copyright infringer by providing tools to its users to enable them to infringe Epidemic’s copyrights. Alleging willful infringement, the complaint again seeks maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per work, but not less than $142 million. The company is also seeking a permanent injunction.

Epidemic Sound’s complaint against Meta, obtained by TechTribune France, can be found here (pdf)

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