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EC approves acquisition of sole control over EMI Music Publishing by Sony

Staff Writer |
The European Commission (EC) has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of EMI Music Publishing by Sony Corporation of America.

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The Commission found the deal raises no competition concerns, in particular as it will not increase Sony's market power vis-à-vis online platforms.

EMI Music Publishing ("EMI MP"), a music publishing company, is since 2012 jointly owned and controlled by Sony Corporation of America ("Sony") and Mubadala Investment Company PJSC ("Mubadala"), an investment fund based in the United Arab Emirates.

Under the proposed transaction, Sony would now acquire sole control and ownership over EMI MP.

Music publishers exploit the copyrights of authors by granting licences to users of music.

The most common music publishing rights are mechanical rights (e.g. for recorded music), performance rights (e.g. for concerts and TV and radio broadcasting), online rights (e.g. for online music downloading or streaming) and synchronisation rights (e.g. for advertisements and film music).

Since 2016, the fully owned and controlled music publishing subsidiary of Sony, Sony/ATV, has been the exclusive administrator of EMI MP's entire catalogue, whereas EMI MP itself plays no role in licensing its catalogue to digital platforms, or in signing and retaining authors.

Since Sony already has joint control of EMI MP, the transaction would not lead to any increase in market share in any of the markets where

ony and EMI MP are active. Therefore, the Commission focused its investigation on assessing whether Mubadala has acted as a constraint on Sony's ability to leverage across both recording music and music publishing rights and, in particular, into the potential impact of the removal of this constraint on any hypothetical Sony strategy for EMI MP.

As regards the provision of music publishing services to authors, the Commission concluded that, as Sony/ATV and EMI MP have not competed to sign new authors since 2012, and as Mubadala did not constrain Sony's strategy before the merger, the merger would not raise competition concerns.

As regards the exploitation of the copyrights offline, the Commission excluded competition concerns because Sony/ATV already has the sole and exclusive right to license EMI MP's publishing rights offline.

Moreover, in relation to mechanical and performance rights the Commission concluded that control over pricing and licensing terms is in any case in the hands of collecting societies.

Finally, as regards the exploitation of publishing rights for online use, although the merger would not lead to any increase in market shares, the Commission analysed whether the transaction could increase Sony's bargaining power vis-à-vis online music platforms in the market for online music licensing.

This is because Sony not only holds publishing rights for songs but also recording rights (via its recording division – Sony Music), and online platforms need a licence to both sets of rights to be able to offer their services. As the repertoire of songs over which Sony has publishing rights only overlaps partially with the one over which it holds recording rights, Sony has control over a larger set of songs than just the songs controlled by Sony/ATV and EMI MP.

The Commission looked into whether, after the transaction, Sony could threaten not to license its rights – publishing or recording – in order to extract better terms from online platforms. However, the Commission found that the transaction would not materially increase Sony's bargaining power vis-à-vis online platforms.


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