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Facebook in talks with labels over limited music licences

By | Published on Monday 16 May 2016


Facebook is in talks with the labels about securing licences to cover the music that appears in user-generated content on its platform, though seemingly on a much more limited basis than YouTube.

According to the New York Post, Facebook wants to license a limited catalogue of tracks that users will then be able to choose from when uploading their own visual content to the social network. The deals currently mainly relate to a product called Slideshow, which makes it easier for users to turn photos into a slideshow video with a soundtrack.

Warner is seemingly on board for a pilot, with a spokesperson for Facebook telling the Post: “We are always testing ways to help people better share their stories with friends. Slideshows are a new way for people to share photos and videos in a creative and succinct way. To date, we’ve been using Facebook-owned music to accompany these slideshows, we will now be testing the use of a limited amount of music from Warner Music Group”.

It’s not clear how Facebook will pay for music used in this way, ie whether it will charge the uploader a nominal licence fee (unlikely, but a route some have suggested as a more lucrative approach to music in UGC), place advertising alongside the finished product (more likely, and Facebook’s ad business is currently booming), or just take a hit.

Video, of course, has become a big deal on Facebook in recent years, and the social media firm recently launched a Content-ID-style system to help rights owners whose content is appearing on the social network without their permission. Though, unlike YouTube’s Content ID, Facebook’s Rights Manager does not currently include monetisation options.

The social media company is known to be experimenting with various monetisation models for rights owners whose content appears on its platform. Though Facebook bosses will obviously be aware of the issues that currently surround YouTube’s licences from the music industry, and will be wary of joining the Google-owned video platform in the firing line, where it too would be routinely slated in public by popstars and music execs. At the same time, it will also be wary of committing to the sorts of minimum guarantees the music industry generally wants from streaming platforms.

But Facebook can’t just bail on music – as it did when facing similar challenges in the past – because video is now too important, and video uploads mean music on the platform. The streamlined licences being negotiated for Slideshow, therefore, could be seen has baby-steps towards more full on alliances with the music rights owners. Though quite what those deals might look like remains to be seen.