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FTC, DOJ SNIFFING AROUND RE APPLE-MAJORS COLLUSION

Yesterday, New York Post media reporter Claire Atkinson broke the story that the EU is looking into the possibility that Apple and the majors are colluding to shut out freemium streaming services. Today, Atkinson reports that regulators on Capitol Hill have been holding talks with key music-industry executives in order to figure out whether to launch a wider antitrust review of the tech titan’s business practices.

According to her sources, both the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice have been involved in those conversations. The DOJ already has an antitrust monitor at Apple’s Cupertino HQ. The monitor was placed there after Apple lost a case over e-book price fixing and colluding with publishers; it’s appealing that verdict.

Meanwhile, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also getting into the act, sending a subpoena to labels looking for details of their deals with Apple. And this despite the fact that Apple has yet to sign a single deal with a label, Atkinson reiterated.

A music-industry source whispered to her that Apple’s rivals are using regulators to fight their commercial battles. Spotify, for instance, is still negotiating its new deals with UMG and is poised for an IPO later this year. 

These reports inspired the following headline from mobile news site BGR

"You must be kidding: European regulators are already ‘concerned’ about Apple’s new music streaming service"

Meanwhile, Sprint and parent company Softbank refuted Atkinson’s April 1 report that the two companies had bought a minority stake in Tidal for about $250m. In a statement issued on Thursday, Sprint said that it is in discussions with Tidal about "how to best to make the service available to its customers… We are working together in partnership for the vision of the common cause of reestablishing the value of music, [but] it is NOT a financial investment or exclusive partnership.”

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