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Monopoly Much? Google to Start Kicking Independent Artists Off Youtube

Independent artists like Billy Bragg could find their music removed by Google in a matter of days

Google is flexing its enormous monopolistic arm once again.  Robert Kyncl, Google’s head of content and business operations, told the Financial Times the coompany will begin removing independent artists from Youtube “in a matter of days” if they don’t sign Google’s take-it-or-leave-it contract, which allows Google to include their music in their soon-to-be-launched subscription music service.

The Worldwide Independent Music Industry Network (WIN) says Google is forcing independent companies to take far inferior terms than those offered to industry gorillas like Sony and EMI.

According Kyncl,  indie companies who are refusing to sign represent a very small segment of the music market. He also makes the rather astonishing claim that it’s Google’s responsibility to strong-arm small publishers into signing the agreements.

“While we wish that we had 100% success rate, we understand that is not likely an achievable goal and therefore it is our responsibility to our users and the industry to launch the enhanced music experience,” Kyncl told the Guardian.

Independent artists and labels apparently see things a bit differently. “I don’t know why they’ve opened this hornet’s nest right now, apart from corporate hubris,” said artist Billy Bragg at a press conference organized by WIN earlier this month. “I don’t think they realise what a stupid thing they’ve done.”

The fact that Google is using its government-protected monopoly in one area (online video) in order to break into the music streaming business should raise a few regulatory eyebrows.  Competitors like Spotify and Amazon had no such ability when they made their entry into the marketplace.

And according to WIN in a letter sent to the FTC, Google is up to its old tricks trying to drive competitors out of the marketplace by using its monopoly to enforce better terms than its competitors, which will significantly lower its costs.

According to our members, the terms currently on offer to Independent companies from YouTube are non-negotiable and highly unfavorable, and in many cases, unworkable (for example insisting on global rights which the Independent may not be able to grant). They also undermine existing rates in the marketplace from music streaming partners such as Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody and others.

If anyone is looking for the FTC to step in and break up Google’s government-protected monopoly, think again.  The FTC basically slapped Google on the wrist early last year for “anticompetitive conduct,” and chose not to take antitrust action.

Moreover, new FTC commissioner Joshua Wright, whose work was financed by Google, has publicly stated that he does not think the FTC should interfere with Google’s government-protected monopoly.  (Wright recused himself from all Google decisions for two years, but that period will end at the beginning of nexct year.)

It’s not clear how this move by Google will affect artists who are not affiliated with any music label, but simply want the ability to post their own music on Youtube. Google told Forbes that “Any user-uploaded video of copyrighted content will likely stay up too…though it’s yet to be finalized.”

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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