Monday, August 20, 2007

Free and ilimited music downloads with your ISP in France

The French Internet service provider Neuf Cegetel announced that its subscribers to the Neuf Box (Internet+telephone+TV) have now a free and unlimited music downloading service with the package. In order to do that the French company has signed an exclusive agreement with Universal Music, which is providing an extensive catalogue of music and video clips. The music and video files are protected by DRMs, which need to be “renewed” every month by connecting the device being used to listen/watch them to Internet. It seems that the DRM in use is Windows based, so not a friendly move for Apple and its iTunes/iPod empire (in the non-exhaustive list of compatible players nothing made by the Cupertino-based company seems to appear).

One thing that may raise some eyebrows is the fact that both Neuf Cegetel and Universal Music have a common shareholder (Vivendi owns 40.5% through SFR and 100% respectively), which would make an interesting case for analysing some competition and antitrust issues. Is Vivendi using its shareholding power to make UM and Neuf Cegetel enter into an exclusive agreement that has as its object or effect the distortion of competition within the common market by applying “dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading parties” as expressly prohibited by art 81.1 (d) of the Treaty of Rome? We will have to see whether other ISPs get the same deal, but it also can be argued that, regardless how unfair the deal may seem to others, it wouldn’t be fair to target only this deal because the whole “legal” music and video download business needs a deep (or deeper than until now) revision by the European Commission.

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