Today the European Commission and US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) both gave clearance to the merger of major record labels Universal Music Group (UMG) and EMI. The European antitrust authorities conditioned their approval on a number of divestitures, but the FTC simply closed their investigation without taking any action or negotiating any conditions on the merger. On the whole, this is a major loss for the future of the music industry, and digital music services will be bearing the burden of this decision for years to come.
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Reports today indicate that the European Union will soon issue its official final decision on the proposed merger between the major labels Universal Music Group and EMI, if UMG divests a substantial portion of EMI. As Public Knowledge has explained before, Europe’s review in no way changes the US Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) responsibility to examine the merger and protect competition in the US market.
As the FTC continues its review, it must remember that the consequences of this merger go well beyond higher prices for consumers: it allows corporate gatekeepers to leverage their large copyright holdings as a tax on innovation.
This is the fourth post in our series on how a US proposal for a copyright chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) would hurt the rights of citizens in the 21st century. That proposal was leaked on the internet in February last year. For more details on the TPP, check out tppinfo.org.
One of the ways that the TPP fails to accommodate the needs of 21st century technology is by locking the US into its current rules for when online service providers should be liable for others’ infringement, in addition to subtly chipping away at the protections given to online service providers.
Locking In the Notice-and-Takedown Process
On Sunday, dozens of non-profits, companies, and members of the public gathered in Leesburg, VA, to speak out about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the ongoing 14th round of negotiations. Public Knowledge attended the events, stressing to the negotiators the importance of copyright limitations and exceptions, and explaining how the TPP can be fixed to encourage those exceptions.
Stakeholder Presentations: Logistically Challenged
Many logistical challenges clouded the stakeholder events, accentuating the already acute problems of public participation. As others have reported, the USTR initially tried to squeeze public stakeholder presentations to just 8 minutes each for the Leesburg round. After many groups protested, the USTR expanded the time limit to 10 minutes, which is the same amount that stakeholders were given during the July negotiations in San Diego.
Today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it will allow, with conditions, Verizon, Comcast, and other cable companies to cross-market each other’s products and establish a Joint Operating Entity to develop and control new technology. As part of the deal Verizon will also buy a substantial amount of wireless spectrum from the cable companies. Although only the DOJ’s proposed settlement is officially available (pdf), the FCC is also expected to approve the deal next week with similar conditions. On the whole, these conditions fail to adequately address the many harms threatened by the deal, and the approval of this deal raises significant questions for the future of broadband competition policy going forward.
While much attention has focused on whether European antitrust regulators will allow the major label Universal to buy one of its competitors, EMI, the proposed merger has also attracted the attention of US antitrust authorities in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Senate. In the US context, this merger bears some important similarities to recent proceedings like the Comcast/NBCU merger and the failed AT&T/T-Mobile merger.
Universal/EMI and AT&T/T-Mobile: Taking Over a Maverick Competitor
As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) continue their review of the proposed deals between Verizon, Comcast, and several other large cable companies, attention is turning to the companies’ side agreements tied to the proposed spectrum transfer. From the very beginning of this proceeding Public Knowledge has focused on the ways that the side agreements threaten the public interest, in addition to potentially spelling the end of competition between wireline and wireless internet service providers.
This week the US and eight other countries finished the 13th round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Public Knowledge attended the negotiation sessions to talk to negotiators and advocate for balanced copyright policies that would benefit the public. Here is a recap of what PK did and saw at the San Diego negotiations.
The U.S., as host for this round of negotiations, organized two events for public stakeholders to talk to negotiators and present their perspectives at the beginning of the negotiation round. First, there was a tabling event similar to the one held during the Dallas round of negotiations in May. Stakeholders could sign up for a table in hopes that negotiators handling the issues they care about would stop by to discuss the stakeholders’ concerns.
Today the U.S. Federal Trade Commission approved a proposed merger between the publishing divisions of Sony/ATV and EMI Music Publishing. Although the FTC did not release an analysis of the deal, yesterday the European Union released the analysis it relied upon when approving the publishing merger with several divestitures. The proposed merger between the Universal Music Group (UMG) and EMI record labels is still under consideration in both the U.S. and Europe, but a closer look at the EU’s analysis of the Sony/EMI publishing merger only bolsters the case against the UMG/EMI merger.
The debate over transparency in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) rages on. Yesterday the US Trade Representative (USTR) released a fact sheet on transparency in the TPP negotiations. The fact sheet basically summarizes how the USTR perceives its transparency efforts to date and how it responds to outcry from members of Congress and the public that the level of secrecy surrounding the TPP negotiations is unacceptable.
While this fact sheet is better than no response at all, it does little to address substantive concerns about secrecy in TPP and in fact only shows how public input and accountability is directly dependent on the open availability of substantive information about the TPP’s proposed text.