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This article was published on October 2, 2023

Spotify ‘unfairly held back’ by Google and Apple, CEO says

Daniel Ek wants more rules for big tech, but says attempts to control AI will soon become obsolete


Spotify ‘unfairly held back’ by Google and Apple, CEO says

While on a tour to woo UK lawmakers ahead of the adoption of the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, Daniel Ek has taken a swing at big tech’s dominance. 

The Spotify CEO urged the UK to “show leadership” as it prepared to regulate big tech according to its own agenda outside of the EU. However, it is unclear just exactly how much further he expects it to go compared to the bloc’s Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Of course, it is not just concern for the little guy/consumer and their right to access services without the say-so of big tech that has prompted Ek’s charm offensive. In an interview with the Financial Times, the music streaming giant’s boss said that Spotify was being unfairly held back by digital platforms such as Apple because of their position as internet gatekeepers.

“I find it insane that two companies [Apple and Google] essentially control how over 4bn consumers access the internet around the world,” Ek said. “Not only are they dictating the rules, they also compete directly downstream with those providers.”

After the DMA, the DMCC

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill (DMCC) is currently at the report stage in the House of Commons. Sarah Cardell, CEO of the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has described it as a flagship bill which has the potential to be a “watershed moment.”

The bill has three areas of focus: consumer protection, digital markets, and competition. In regards to tech, it will empower the Digital Markets Unit (DMU) within the CMA to oversee and enforce the new digital competition regime. According to Cardell, it will “establish a tailored, evidenced-based and proportionate approach to regulating the largest and most powerful digital firms to ensure effective competition that benefits everyone.” 

Again, it will be interesting to see just how the DMCC will differ from the European Union’s DMA, under which regulators recently revealed a list of designated gatekeepers that would need to ‘open up’ their services to competitors.

Will not ban AI music from Spotify

In addition to his commentary on rules for big tech, Ek voiced concerns that any regulation of artificial intelligence made now would soon become obsolete due to the fast-paced development of the technology. Earlier in the week, he told the BBC that he would not ban AI generated music from his platform. Ek further added that there were valid uses of the tech in making music, but that it should not be used to impersonate human artists without their consent.

The UK government is reportedly pushing AI companies, including OpenAI and Google DeepMind, for greater access to their Large Language Models (LLMs), as it prepares to host the forthcoming global AI summit at Bletchley Park. This will be key to have a better understanding of how the technology works and judge the kinds of risks that will arise. Meanwhile, people on both sides of the negotiations have stated that companies, in turn, are concerned about risks to proprietary product information, as well as potential exposure to cyberattacks. 

The tech regulatory tug-of-war continues.

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