The Italian Competition Authority has levied a symbolic fine of €1,000 on performance rights organisation (PRO) SIAE for the abuse of its dominant market position to suppress competition in Italy’s rights sector.
SIAE (the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers, or Società Italiana degli Autori ed Editori) has been given 60 days to “put an end to its [alleged] distortions of competition”, which relate to a dispute with two newer copyright collection societies, Soundreef and Innovaetica.
SIAE had formerly exercised a (legal) monopoly on Italian royalties collections, although a 2017 provision of Italy’s budget law finally paved the way for the liberalisation of the market and allowed for competition, to comply with EU law.
Some 8,000 rightsholders have left SIAE in recent years, mostly for Soundreef. SIAE was alleged to have spent 400,000 to investigate Soundreef – including by hiring Black Cube, a private intelligence agency founded by ex-Mossad agents – following the high-profile defection of Fabio Rovazzi and Fedez in January.
According to AGCM, SIAE has embarked on a “complex exclusionary strategy” designed to uphold its monopoly
In Fedez’s case, his tour promoter, Show Bees, had paid the artist’s royalties to SIAE – as it was legally obliged to do – but was later ordered to also pay Soundreef too (calling to mind the headache faced by other promoters whose acts are collecting their performance royalties directly).
According to the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM), SIAE has since 2012 embarked on a “complex exclusionary strategy” designed to uphold its monopoly, “impairing the right of authors to choose copyright management services provided by [SIAE’s] competitors”.
As a result, the authority today ordered SIAE to “immediately end the proven distortion of competition and to refrain from behaving [as such] in the future”, as well as imposing the €1,000 fine as a “symbolic pecuniary sanction”.
SIAE’s president, lyricist Mogol (pictured), says the society will “read and evaluate the text [of AGCM’s decision] very carefully”. “SIAE is sure to be able to demonstrate that no violation for abuse took place, and that its work was always respectful of the law on copyright and in general, including in the field of competition,” he comments.
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