Jun 16, 2021 • 9M

🗞️ Congress goes all-in on tech antitrust

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Raad Ahmed
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This week: Major tech companies are on red alert thanks to Congress and the music industry is taking a Napster-like approach to a children’s app. Plus, Ohio wants Google to be a utility.

🚨 Congress launches the biggest antitrust action in years 

Congress is officially not playing around when it comes to threatening Silicon Valley. Legislators filed five bills last week aimed squarely at the biggest tech companies.

If they pass, here’s what could happen: 

  • Apple would lose some of its power for controlling pricing and payments on the App Store (somewhere, Epic is exhaling).

  • Amazon would lose its ability to prioritize its own products

  • Acquisitions by any of the biggest tech companies would face greater scrutiny, particularly those involving smaller startups that threaten the companies’ power.

  • Amazon and Google may have to divest in some of their products, like YouTube.

  • Facebook would have to loosen its practices over collecting and storing data. 

Faster than lawsuits

These are bills in Congress. They could potentially create reform far faster than anything from the Department of Justice. 

The Verdict

Some of the bills have bipartisan support. It’s not a stretch that Congress forces major tech companies to change in the near future. 

☎️ Ohio wants to take Google back to the landline era 

Decades ago, American states used to have faceless phone companies and electric companies, and the limited choices were tightly controlled by the government. Ohio wants to bring back that era -- but for Google

  • Ohio AG Dave Yost filed a lawsuit against Google last week: He seeks to make Google what is known as a “common carrier” and cited a law that is over 100 years old (literally from the robber barons era). As a common carrier, Google would not be able to prioritize its own products in search, i.e. YouTube and Maps. 

  • Yost even brought up railroad references: In announcing the lawsuit, he said, “When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access.” 

Google is not having it 

A spokesperson told NBC search results would be worse for consumers if Ohio succeeded in its lawsuit.

The Verdict

One antitrust expert told the NYT Ohio would have a difficult time proving Google should be a common carrier. But as we know from the flurry of antitrust actions, the government may get more control over companies like Google one way or another.

🎶 The music industry believes the app Roblox is teaching young children how to pirate music 

Move over Napster, Sean Parker, and Limewire, the music industry has a new target for lawsuits, and it’s called Roblox. 

  • Roblox is an online gaming platform popular with children: It lets users create their own shareable games. Revenues soared in 2020, topping $500 million. 

  • Music is part of the game system, too: People can upload songs from popular artists like Ariana Grande and Imagine Dragons in the video games they create. The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) has sued, alleging Roblox is hosting a library filled with unlicensed content. 

But the music industry’s beef goes beyond licensing

Yes, the NMPA wrote that Roblox “actively preys on its impressionable user base and their desire for popular music, teaching children that pirating music is perfectly acceptable.” 

The Verdict

Maybe this just means Roblox has hit the big time. The music industry has gone after YouTube and Twitch over copyright issues in recent years, too.   

💌 What else we’re forwarding 

New associates in Big Law are seeing massive raises: Milbank upped the ante on first-year associate salaries to $200,000 and raised other associate salaries across the board. Plenty of other firms followed

Add McDonald’s and EA Sports to list of major companies to get hacked: The hackers never sleep. For McDonald’s at least there has been no disruption to its operations. 

🎧 Music we’re working to

Today we’re listening to Caroline Polachek, former lead vocalist of the indie-pop band Chairlift.  Pang, which she released under her own name, takes a similarly stripped-down approach to classic pop song structures. Though it contains vocals, you can either melt into the music or use it as an atmospheric mood set. Except “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings,” that one is for dancing!

Pang - Caroline Polachek
Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube Music / Amazon Music 

See ya next week,

🧐 Raad