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EU SEEKS EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION BETWEEN APPLE AND MAJORS

The EU’s Competition Commission has launched a probe of Apple and other premium music-streaming services to see if they’re colluding with the major labels to squash the unlimited free streaming services, Claire Atkinson reports in the New York Post.

It’s believed the EU has concerns that the premium streaming services are working with the labels to limit or end their licenses with the freemium services.

Several streaming services and music labels have received questionnaires from European regulators recently, sources said. The questionnaires ask about arrangements with Apple, which is prepping its premium music-streaming entry for a summer launch. They added that the Competition Commission wants to know about arrangements with other music streamers as well.

“There is concern in the industry that Apple, with its enormous marketshare and distribution power and what it can do in terms of pricing and promotion can have an unfair competitive advantage,” once music industry executive told Atkinson. “They have a concern that big American companies are using their influence in Europe.”

But as Atkinson notes, it’ll be hard to make a case against Apple, which hasn’t concluded any deals with the labels and hasn’t confirmed pricing on the new initiative.

“It’s hard to suggest collusion,” one “highly placed” music executive told the reporter. “Why would we want Apple to own the download business and the streaming business?”

That seems to reflect the current thinking at the majors. But it leads to a fascinating question: Who ends up on whose side here?

The EU is also preparing the groundwork to file charges against Google in the next few weeks, looking to conclude its five-year-old antitrust investigation of the Internet colossus.

Big action to come.

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