MTP readers may have seen that Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality division lost a copyright infringement case in a $500,000,000 jury verdict for a variety of claims. While that seems like a lot of money to me, the verdict was far short of what was at stake. What is interesting about the case for our purposes was not the details (covered by the Hollywood Reporter and a bunch of other outlets if you want to read up on it).
What is interesting is how Facebook reacted to having to pay $500,000,000 for rights. Particularly since Facebook currently pays zero for music.
According to the Hollywood Reporter:
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Wednesday told CNBC, “The verdict is non-material to our business.”
A $500,000,000 rights payment is “non-material to our business.” This really is how the other half lives. Without going down the rabbit hole on materiality (see the SEC statement on materiality in financial statements here), let us take Ms. Sandberg’s rather breathtaking statement as true, or at least truthy.
What Ms. Sandberg suggests to me is that any rights payment that Facebook might make for songwriters and artists is also likely to me “non-material” to their business, even if that payment were hundreds of millions annually on an industry-wide basis.
It also makes you wonder why a public company for whom a $500,000,000 copyright infringement verdict is “non-material” prefer to be unlicensed royalty deadbeats rather than pay their fair share? People who have enriched themselves in the public markets that protect their property rights in securities transactions just as the law protects intellectual property–as demonstrated by the Oculus verdict.
Who are these people?