The Court of Milan has rendered a decision in favour of the Soundreef start-up, thus effectively opening up the market to free competition from music copyright collecting societies regarding the collection and distribution of music royalties.
Background music for shopping malls and other businesses is therefore not necessarily limited to the mediation of SIAE, the sole rights management society in Italy.
This ruling by The Court of Milan rejects the requests made both by a songwriter member of SIAE (Laura Piccinelli) and the in-store radio Ros & Ros, which specializes in creating playlists for shopping malls and is on the list of subjects with SIAE authorization.
The lawsuit was started with the aim of prohibiting the collecting activities of Soundreef, a London based collecting society, which distributes a large catalogue of in-store background music to businesses in Italy.
The Plaintiffs had invoked art. 180 of Law no. 633 of April 22, 1941 of the Copyright Act which granted SIAE a legal monopoly over copyright collecting services. With its recourse to urgent procedure, the Court of Milan has sought to give precedence to art. 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union regarding free movement of services, adjudging that there is not sufficient evidence to consider the distribution of music by Soundreef in Italy to be illegal and even less to assert that “the music managed and distributed by Soundreef in Italy in shopping malls and other similar businesses should necessarily be entrusted to SIAE’s mediation. Such a claim would conflict with the principles of free trade within the EU and with the fundamental principles of free competition”.
In addition, the Judges have decreed that, since Soundreef is a British company, “it cannot be said that there exists any obligation for European collecting societies only to do business in Italy by way of reciprocal agreements with the local collecting society. This would only occur at the discretion of the parties, but is not to be considered as an obligation”.
The dispute between Soundreef and SIAE had appeared inevitable, as the London based start-up’s structure allows the uploading of free music tracks by artists who keep 100% of the related property rights.