Epidemic Sound sues Meta in $142m infringement lawsuit


Meta has steadily grown its licensing deals with music rightsholders in recent years, focusing on usage of music in user-generated content across Facebook, Instagram and its other platforms. However, this week it is facing a big headache in the form of a copyright infringement lawsuit from production music firm Epidemic Sound.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this week in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. It alleges unlicensed use of Epidemic’s catalogue to the tune of “more than 80,000 new instances of theft of Epidemic’s works per day” across Facebook and Instagram.

The lawsuit also claims that Meta has “ignored Epidemic’s repeated notices of infringement and requests for access to the tools that would help stop the infringement”, adding that Meta has “refused to enter into a license with Epidemic” along the lines of its deals with other rightsholders.

At this point, we only have one side of the story: albeit the full side thanks to TorrentFreak posting a PDF of Epidemic’s legal filing. It breaks down several different grievances that the Swedish company has over its music being used on Facebook and Instagram.

It claims that Facebook has made some of its music available through its music library for users, but also that Meta’s ‘Original Audio’ and ‘Reels Remix’ features have enabled users to grab and use music from videos where that music *has* been properly licensed.

This is an important point: influencers using Epidemic Sound’s service are cleared to use its music in their videos on Facebook and Instagram, as well as other platforms including YouTube, Twitch and TikTok. So their Facebook and Instagram videos are fully licensed.

The dispute here is about that music being reused in non-customers’ videos, but also – crucially – whether Meta has played an active role in enabling that to happen. As opposed to, say, individual users putting Epidemic’s tracks in their videos without paying for its service, which would be a notice-and-takedown scenario.

Epidemic’s claims are certainly startling. “As a result of Meta’s actions, Epidemic’s music is available across millions of videos and have been viewed billions of times,” claims the filing.

“Approximately 50,000 infringing videos and 30,000 new uploads containing Epidemic’s music are uploaded to Facebook and Instagram, respectively, on a daily basis. Upon information and belief, approximately 94% of content using Epidemic’s music on Meta’s platforms is unlicensed and thus infringing.”

Meta has yet to comment on the lawsuit. Music Ally will be reaching out to the company today to see if it has a response.

Epidemic Sound raises plenty of hackles still in the music industry, it’s fair to say. For example, ECSA, the European body representing composers and songwriters, is a persistent critic of its contractual arrangements with musicians, and UK bodies The Ivors Academy and Musicians’ Union have also weighed in on that debate.

Epidemic Sound has always pushed back on those arguments and maintained that it treats its musicians fairly. Whichever side of that debate you sit on, however, this week’s lawsuit is a fascinating and somewhat sensitive moment.

The principle of music being properly licensed when it’s used on big social platform is something Epidemic and its fiercest critics would agree on, if through gritted teeth in some cases. It will be interesting to see whether the company gets any backing from elsewhere in the industry.

But as we said, we’ve not seen Meta’s response yet (either in public statement or legal filing form) so we keenly await that. Epidemic Sound is seeking at least $142m in damages from the lawsuit – perhaps not an enormous sum at Meta scale (2021 revenues: $117.93bn) but certainly a big deal for Epidemic (2021 revenues: $67.4m).

Written by: Stuart Dredge