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Google the omnipontent

5 August 2020

Music streaming services are now very popular.

Hell, even my wife uses Spotify.

Although they seem to complain a lot about it, most record labels are earning a useful chunk of change from the fees that streaming services pay for use of their music.

There have however, been some upsets along the way and just this week, people in Denmark found a huge swath of Danish recordings were "not available" to them because the national recording rights organisation Koda could not agree with Google over a fee for content on the YouTube platform.

With Koda unwilling to settle for the figure Google was offering, the company effectively pulled all uploads over which the rights organisation claims copyright and most Danish music tracks effectively disappeared in the blink of an eye.

I'm sure the issue will be resolved but it's pretty obvious who holds all the power in this stand-off.

It has got me wondering about what Google and YouTube are doing though... and just how fair it is.

I was prompted to ponder this a little more when I read this headline on the BBC website this morning: YouTube Music: Google to axe Play Music in October.

It seems that Google is going to shut down its Play Music streaming service in October and push people across to YouTube Music where they get not only the audio but also the video.

Play Music was to Spotify what Google-Plus was to Facebook -- ie: a bit of a failure.

So now, if you want a streaming music fix from Google you'll have to subscribe to YouTube Music for US$12.99 a month and put yet another app on your phone.

Or... you could simply subscribe to YouTube Premium and get all the music you want plus ad-free viewing of YouTube videos for US$15.99 a month.

Unless you're living in a cave somewhere it's a bit of a no-brainer isn't it?

For the extra $2 you get to rid yourself of the ever-more-intrusive ads that are now a blight on virtually every YouTube video. What a bargain... except perhaps for the music industry.

YouTube Music seems to give access to the "official uploads" of a number of recording labels. You're going to get a well-curated library of videos that, one would expect, meet a certain standard for fidelity and quality. What you won't get are the indie bands that aren't part of the program or those labels that have decided not to take whatever amount Google is offering for use of their content.

By comparison, YouTube Premium seems to give access to *everything* that's been uploaded to YouTube. This does include every garage band that's ever stuck a video on the platform, a range of "unauthorised" uploads of copyrighted material and also short-movies, and the raft of other dross that YouTube has become.

It's hard to see why the two services co-exist at all, at least from where I stand.

But back to Google's effective monopoly and the power it gives them.

I see that in Australia, laws have been passed that will force Google to pay for any news content it wishes to include in services such as Google News. This has long been a demand by the likes of Rupert Murdoch who alledge that Google is breaching their copyright and appropriating their content without permission or compensation.

Clearly these news publishers have never heard of the robots.txt file they could use to prevent Google from indexing their pages. Hey guys... there's a news story in and of itself. Will you be covering that in the pages of The Daily Mail perhaps???

I expect that Google will now do what it did in other countries when they tried the same trick -- simply drop those news publications from their listings and wait until those publishers comeback, cap in hand, begging for re-inclusion for free.

While it might be fun to laugh at those who dare to challenge Googles omnipotence in these areas we really do need to remember that Google has become a huge force within many industries and if we're not careful we'll eventually discover that we are all victims of that power and unable to do anything about it.

I'm not an advocate of governments meddling in the affairs of industry but when it comes to a single entity weilding so much power, sometimes it is a move worthy of consideration.

What do readers think... has Google reached the point where its level of power poses a huge danger of corruption and effects that are very much counter to the public good?

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