Lucio Battisti, heirs win in appeal against Sony Music

The record major demanded payment of 8.5 million in damages because his wife and son vetoed the economic exploitation of the songs

As the anniversary of Lucio Battisti’s disappearance approaches – on 9 September it will be 25 years since the artist died – the Battisti controversy shows no signs of stopping. Which sees the singer-songwriter’s heirs score a victory in the appeal against Sony Music.

The story dates back to 2017, when Sony Music filed a new lawsuit against the heirs of Lucio Battisti (Grazia Letizia Veronese and Luca Battisti). The accusation made by Sony Music is the same that Mogol had made against them years before: having opposed a right of veto to any form of economic exploitation of the musical works of Lucio Battisti.

In particular, the heirs of Lucio Battisti have been accused by Sony Music of having revoked the mandate to the SIAE for the online use of Lucio Battisti’s musical works (thus preventing Sony Music from marketing the phonographic recordings of the songs interpreted by Lucio Battisti on the main digital platforms, Spotify above all) and for having hindered the use of Lucio Battisti’s musical works for synchronization (thus preventing Sony Music from using the phonographic recordings of the songs interpreted by Lucio Battisti in commercials of well-known brands, such as Fiat and Barilla).

Sony Music’s claim for damages amounted to €8.5 million.

The Court of Appeal of Milan, confirming the first instance sentence, which had already rejected Sony Music’s claims, rejected the appeal and sentenced Sony Music to pay the costs of the proceedings.

“The decision of the Milanese Court – explains the lawyer Simone Veneziano, lawyer of the Heirs of Lucio Battisti – is significant for at least three reasons. Firstly, because a judge clarifies, for the first time, that the record contracts stipulated by Lucio Battisti over fifty years ago with the phonographic producers giving cause to Sony Music they do not allow, without now the consent (of the Heirs) of Lucio Battisti (or of his Music Publishers), nor to use online the phonographic recordings that incorporate the interpretations at the time performed by Lucio Battisti, nor to use the same phonographic recordings for the advertising of commercial products.Secondly, because the acceptance of Sony Music’s thesis would have had a disruptive effect in the music sector and, in particular, in the publishing sector Sony Music, in fact, argued in court that the obstructive behavior of the heirs of Lucio Battisti, also in their capacity as administrators of the music publishers (Edizioni Musicali Acqua Azzurra Srl and Aquilone Srl) of the musical works of Lucio Battisti, would have resulted in they bear the responsibility of a ‘social contact’. Since – claims Sony Music – the rights of the author of the musical work, of the performer and of the phonographic producer who fixes the interpretation on the support are rights that would be conditional on each other, in the sense that it would not be possible exploitation of the recording of a song without all the rights holders (author, performer and phonographic producer) having given their consent, the Heirs of Lucio Battisti would have been obliged to allow Sony Music to use the phonographic recordings of Lucio Battisti’s songs for syncs for advertising purposes. If Sony Music’s thesis were accepted, we would therefore have witnessed the affirmation of the subversive principle according to which the economic use of a musical work, rather than by the author (or music publisher), would be governed by the phonographic producer. The decision as to whether, to whom and for what consideration to license a musical work would no longer rest with the author (or music publisher), but with the phonograph producer. In short, it would no longer be the authors (or music publishers) who ‘command’ over musical works, but the record companies. Anyone, on the other hand, knows perfectly well that whoever wants to use any song, for example in a commercial, must request it, separately, both from the owner of the phonographic recording and from the author (or music publisher); and he knows, even better, that each of these subjects is absolutely free to decide whether, to whom and for what consideration to grant the license. Thirdly, because the heirs of Lucio Battisti were also acquitted of the charge of having violated, as directors of the music publishers (Edizioni Musicali Acqua Azzurra Srl and Aquilone Srl) of the musical works of Lucio Battisti, the obligations of diligence against Sony Music, since Sony Music did not allege any illicit conduct of the directors different and additional to that charged (moreover, unfounded, given the absence, as mentioned, of a liability from “social contact”) to the Music Publishers”.

Sony Music has announced that it will appeal to the Supreme Court. Lucio Battisti’s heirs let it be known that they will also await this decision “with serenity”.