@musictechpolicy: Facebook’s Music Licenses: What’s Not to Like?

Facebook pays no royalties for the music that gives significant value to the platform. That’s often a surprising proposition for artists and songwriters, much less the general public.

Yet it is true—hitmakers and new artists, pros and amateurs alike do not get a penny from Facebook and the company doesn’t even attempt to license their work. Why should a multibillion dollar multinational corporation that anchors a large piece of the Internet economy and whose founder is planning on running for President of the United States get to pay music makers in exposure bucks?

The answer is that Facebook, like YouTube and many other user-generated content platforms hide behind the legacy DMCA “safe harbor” and its nonnegotiable, unconscionable, adhesion contract that controls the use of its platform.

Rumor has it that Facebook is evidently coming to the table and is in at least semi-active negotiations with at least some labels and publishers.

One may well ask what took so long—but if it were not for Universal Music Group’s pursuit of Facebook’s infringements through DMCA notices, it’s likely that Facebook would be blithely rolling on its monopolist juggernaut.

On the other hand, this is actually a good time to be negotiating these deals give the Congressional scrutiny of Facebook’s involvement in the 2016 Presidential election campaigns. We have the benefit of public statements by Facebook representatives under oath regarding what they can do and what they so far refuse to do which may come in handy in licensing negotiations.

These negotiations with rights owners may result in what will seem like a very big pop of up-front cash—but is it? And whatever the number, how will that money be distributed to the artists and songwriters that make it happen?

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