Independent music labels want EU to intervene in YouTube row

Visitors stand in front of a logo of YouTube at the YouTube Space Tokyo, operated by Google, in Tokyo February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Shohei Miyano

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Music trade association Impala has asked European Union antitrust regulators to intervene in a row with Google Inc’s YouTube over its paid streaming music service, saying some conditions demanded by the company were anti-competitive.

YouTube, the world’s most popular online video website, last week unveiled plans for the new service, which it said would provide new revenue for the music industry. It is aiming to launch it by the end of the summer.

However, the proposal has drawn criticism from some music trade groups, worried that YouTube may potentially block the content of certain labels from appearing on its free, ad-supported website unless they sign up to the new service.

Echoing protests from the Worldwide Independent Music Industry Network, Brussels-based Impala said that YouTube’s conduct was anti-competitive.

“YouTube is insisting on extracting a package of rights that no other partner could get away with. The terms appear to seriously undervalue existing deals in the marketplace with other business partners,” Impala said in a statement.

“They also appear to include a highly controversial ‘least favoured nation’ clause, as well as provisions regarding delivery of content that restrict the freedom of labels and their artists to decide how to handle releases and marketing such as exclusives. This goes far beyond what would be agreed with any other service,” it said.

Impala, which represents more than 4,000 independent music labels and national associations of indies across Europe, took its grievance to the European Commission on Thursday.

Commission officials and Google did not immediately respond to emails for comment.

Impala also asked the EU competition watchdog to issue interim measures against YouTube because the company “has threatened to start removing independent content from its platform ‘within days’, according to press reports”.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by David Evans