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IMPALA confirms EC complaint submitted over YouTube dispute

By | Published on Friday 27 June 2014


Pan-European indie label trade group IMPALA has confirmed this morning that it has now lodged a formal complaint against YouTube’s negotiating tactics for its new audio streaming service with the European Commission.

The indie label community confirmed its intent to take its dispute with the Google subsidiary to the EC earlier this month. YouTube is accused of not only offering the independent record companies unfavourable terms to sign up to its new Spotify-competing music service, but also of threatening to deprive the labels of access to its existing video platform if they don’t play ball. Some argue that threat is an abuse of YouTube’s near monopoly in online video.

In a statement, IMPALA said that its complaint “focuses on a series of breaches of European competition rules, setting out five specific instances of conduct which [we believe are] illegal given YouTube’s position as a gatekeeper to the online market”. As expected, IMPALA is asking for “interim measures” which ban YouTube from going through with its threat to ‘block’ the indies from the firm’s video platform, in Europe at least.

Confirming that its grievance had now been lodged, IMPALA boss Helen Smith told CMU: “The formal process has started in Brussels where the European Commission has consistently shown it will take a stance to ensure its competition rules are properly respected”.

She went on: “Commissioner Almunia has already underlined the importance of the contribution made by independent music companies. This is a crucial moment for the development of the online music market with European services leading the charge. What kind of legacy will Europe give those companies? How does Europe want its artists and consumers to be treated? We look to Commissioner Almunia to take urgent action. It’s red card time”.

Amongst the issues raised by IMPALA in its complaint are the claims YouTube is using its market dominance to force terms below the market norm and that it is treating the indies less favourably than the majors, and the more controversial contract terms that include the ‘least favoured nation’ clause and restrictions on artists and labels staggering the release of content over different platforms for marketing reasons.

In its statement IMPALA adds that as well as issuing a “red card” to stop Google’s YouTube from going through with its threat to block the indies from its video platform, European competition regulators could also fine the company up to 10% of its worldwide turnover. “With advertising revenues alone reported to be $5.6 billion, YouTube could be facing a fine north of $500m”, it notes.

Asked about the indie community’s EC complaint, a spokesman for Google told reporters: “Money, money, money, money, give us more money, fuck you tax man, fuck you privacy tsar, fuck you creator man, fuck you indie star, it’s all about the money, money, money, money, money, give us more money, yahaheyahdhadfhasgdhaahs”. Yeah, not really. They were actually too busy doodling to comment.