One might think to pause any power moves during the week your parent company is brought before a House hearing on Big Tech monopolies and antitrust violations. This, perhaps unsurprisingly, was not the case for Google, who yesterday announced it would soon pull all Danish music content from YouTube while negotiating a new joint rights agreement between Nordic nations.
You win some, you lose some — The aggressive move comes amid negotiations between Google, who owns YouTube, and Nordic countries as the two sides seek an all-encompassing rights contract to replace multiple, local legal agreements for Norway, Finland, and Denmark. Traditionally, Danish artists operate through KODA, the national organization of songwriters, music publishers, and composers, and were operating under a temporary licensing extension after their previous agreement with YouTube expired in April.
Although such brief extensions are commonplace during these kinds of negotiations, Google recently demanded Koda agree to reduce composers’ and songwriters’ payments via YouTube’s music licensing by nearly 70 percent, which, even to someone not versed in music industry legalities, is about as drastic as it sounds.
My way or the Internet highway — “Of course, Koda cannot accept these terms, and Google have now unilaterally decided that Koda’s members cannot have their content shown on YouTube and that their fans and users on YouTube will be unable to listen to Koda members’ music until a new agreement is in place,” the organization stated in a press release yesterday. “Although the parties involved in the negotiations on the new joint agreement are by no means in concord yet, progress has been made in recent weeks, and Koda is puzzled by the extremely aggressive approach taken by Google in the negotiations this time.
As Koda’s media director, Kaare Struve, explains, predatory negotiations — while aggressive — aren’t exactly new for a company like Google, the decision to cut off one of the largest means of Danes’ access to their country’s artists is “a low point” for the tech giant. “Ever since the first agreement was signed in 2013, the level of payments received from YouTube has been significantly lower than the level of payment agreed to by subscription-based services,” they added.
Poor timing, at the very least — Even outside of pulling this kind of power move in the middle of multinational negotiations, Google’s aggressive strong-arming couldn’t come at a seemingly less opportune time. Earlier this week, Alphabet Inc.’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, was called before Congress alongside the heads of Facebook, Amazon, and Apple to testify in the House of Representatives’ hearing on Online Platforms and Market Power. One would think this kind of trade tactic only adds to the already inarguable fact that Big Tech monopolies control a dangerous amount of internet accessibility.
Correction: An earlier version of this article used an image from the film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, which is about a fictional Icelandic band. We regret the error.