EU regulators investigate AOM Group for anti-competitive behavior

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EU antitrust regulators are investigating the video licensing policy of the Alliance for Open Media (AOM), whose members include the Alphabet unit Google, Amazon, Apple and Meta, the European Commission announced on Thursday. .

The survey is the latest to hit the tech industry, which will face tough new rules in Europe next year that could force companies to change their core business models and do more to tackle illegal content on their platforms.

“The Commission confirms that it has an ongoing preliminary investigation into AOM’s licensing policy,” a spokesman for the EU executive told Reuters.

“The fact that the Commission has a preliminary investigation does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation into the existence of an infringement,” the spokesperson said, without giving further details.

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AOM did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Founded in 2015, the group aims to create a new software standard for streaming higher quality 4K video across browsers, devices, apps and games, known as AV1.

Although AV1 software is not yet widely adopted, Netflix and YouTube have started using it for some customers, and browsers such as Google Chrome and Firefox have started to support the new format.

Apple and Google did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Meta and Amazon declined to comment. Microsoft, Netflix, Broadcom, Cisco and Tencent, which are also AOM members, did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

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Intel, Huawei, Mozilla, Samsung and Nvidia are also AOM members, according to its website.

In a questionnaire sent to some companies earlier this year and seen by Reuters, the EU watchdog said it was investigating alleged anti-competitive behavior related to AV1’s license terms by AOM and its members in Europe.

“The Commission has information that AOM and its members may impose licensing terms (compulsory royalty-free cross-licensing) on ​​innovators who were not part of AOM when the AV1 technology was created, but whose patents are considered essential for (its) technical specifications,” the newspaper said.

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He said the action could restrict innovators’ ability to compete with the AV1 technical specification, and also eliminate incentives to innovate.

The questionnaire also asked about the impact of an AOM patent license clause in which licensees would have their patent licenses terminated immediately if they launched patent lawsuits claiming that the implementation violated their claims.

Companies face fines of up to 10% of their global turnover for breaching EU antitrust rules.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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