European antitrust officials are looking into a possible cartel in online music distribution involving two recently created joint ventures. However, the probe is at an early stage, a European Commission spokeswoman said Monday. Online subscription services MusicNet and Pressplay are due to launch later this year. MusicNet was formed by AOL Time Warner Inc., Bertelsmann AG, EMI Group PLC and RealNetworks Inc., while Pressplay is backed by Vivendi Universal SA, Sony Music Entertainment Inc. and EMI, which is involved in both services.
"The Commission started looking at these joint ventures in April," Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres said. "The reviews are at a preliminary stage," she said. Torres added that it is "gross speculation" to conclude that the joint ventures will hinder competition. The six-month-old investigations fall under the European Commission's antitrust department's cartel laws, which are designed to prevent combinations of companies from colluding and distorting competition.