IT pricing committee to explore Apple’s music claims

Geoblocking to also come under the spotlight

The IT pricing inquiry committee will take up Apple boss Tony King’s suggestion of approaching record labels to discuss the issue of Australians paying higher prices for digital music.

Labor MP Ed Husic, a member of the committee and a driving force behind the establishment of the inquiry, said the committee will talk to record labels “mainly on the issue of music and the [price] disparity on music downloads."

He said it was an issue the committee discussed after Friday’s hearing, but declined to put a timeframe on when the committee would begin approaching record labels.

Tony King, vice-president for Apple Australia, New Zealand and South Asia, told the inquiry last Friday that higher prices of digital music and other content in Australia reflect rates Apple must pay to rights holders.

“There are other things we need to follow up too. In particular whether or not copyright is being used to protect intellectual property or profit margins,” Husic said.

“There’s some suggestion particularly out of the [United] States in terms of some legal decisions about clarifying the ability of owners of intellectual property to use certain vehicles such as geoblocking to limit competition.”

Husic said the committee will be looking at ways to boost competition to ensure consumers and businesses get a fairer deal. These measures will include reforming competition law and making changes to trade agreements with a “particular focus on geoblocking”, he said.

“It [geoblocking] is ensuring that globalisation is only a one-way street. Businesses can reach across borders to make money, which is fine [to] find new markets and build customer bases…..but it doesn’t allow for consumers to be able to have the benefits in reverse [and] use the power of the Internet to get a better deal.”

Husic said the committee also planned to speak to the Australian Digital Alliance to “explore the issues of copyright further.”

“There will be a few more hearings that we need to have and go through the things that the three [vendors] talked about on Friday.”

Husic said the committee would pore through the transcripts of what was said at the hearing. "I don’t think I was the only one who sensed we weren’t getting straight forward answers to straight forward questions," he said.

"They [vendors] are quick to point out that costs in Australia are higher, but none of them want to accept responsibility for the fact that they might be contributing to the way their pricing strategies hurt businesses here."

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