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Can a tiger change its stripes?

Google offered to spin off its ad tech business into a standalone company (owned by Alphabet) as a concession to deflect an antitrust lawsuit, The Wall Street Journal reports. It’s unclear which products Google would transfer – although its ad networks, AdMob and Google Ads, are the most likely suspects.

The leak apparently comes from the Department of Justice, which is surprising since these guys like to keep their lips sealed. An unnamed department source said a Google ad tech antitrust case could arise as early as late summer.

Google’s offer comes a few weeks after a report that Google initiated the reinstatement of third-party ad serving on YouTube as part of a compromise with EU antitrust authorities.

There’s no official word on either offering, but it’s significant that Google appears to be weighing serious changes to its business structure to deflect anti-competitive cases.

On the other hand, is the creation of an AdMob/DoubleClick unit owned by Alphabet really such a big concession? Potentially. And it could also be a new page in the Alphabet playbook. Wayne Matus, co-founder and general counsel of SafeGuard Privacy, speculated earlier this year that Google could create a separate Google Analytics company under the Alphabet umbrella, but based in Europe and without a server connection to the US – this is why GA is currently illegal in the EU.

EU Says Pee-Yew to Big Tech

Google bore the brunt of the fallout from Schrems II. Google Analytics is illegal in Europe, after all, and regulators have asked site operators to disable GA in Germany, France and Italy, among other countries.

But Google’s rivals aren’t cheering — because they’re next.

Meta has faced a crackdown from Ireland’s data authority, which has sent a draft decision to the European Commission which, if implemented as is, could ban Facebook, Instagram and other apps owned by at Meta in Europe, Advertising week reports. While this is moot right now and would require a lengthy legal process, it’s still a big deal.

Snowden’s leak revealed illegal US surveillance (under European law) of EU citizens, and former President Trump had previously signed legislation allowing law enforcement to subpoena data from European servers – there is therefore no security in asserting that the data never leave the borders of the EU.

Under this interpretation of the GDPR, Microsoft, Amazon, or virtually any US cloud data and service provider is illegal. (Hence the reasoning behind the speculation that Google might spin off Google Analytics into a standalone European company.)

GDPR may be privacy and data protection law, but it will also be used as an antitrust cudgel, as banning big US tech companies could boost local European tech.

poetic license

Studiocanal, a French film production and distribution company, is removing content from the PlayStation Store next month, including previously purchased films, Variety reports.

It’s not the end of the world and only applies in Germany and Austria, but it’s another example of an underappreciated aspect of streaming media: we no longer own the books, movies and the music we buy (publish: rent) online.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed against Apple last year by customers surprised to learn that movies and music purchased from iTunes do not belong to them. When you buy a DVD, CD or book in real life, you own it. You can share it, give it away or throw it in the ocean. But when you buy music, media, or other content online, you’re acquiring a license to access it rather than the thing itself.

There is little risk that Apple, Google or Amazon will go bankrupt. But there are other risks – like rival studios or tech companies that own the means of production pulling their contents into a fortress.

“Apple maintains that ‘[n]No reasonable consumer would believe that purchased content would remain on the iTunes platform indefinitely,” District Court Judge John Mendez wrote last year in a class action lawsuit against Apple. “But in common usage, the term ‘buy’ means to acquire possession of something.”

But wait, there’s more!

How China’s relationship with Hollywood has shaped the movies. [Vox]

Unboxing Meta Pivot to Open Chart and Short Video. [Mobile Dev Memo]

Glance, a Google-backed mobile advertising company and subsidiary of InMobi, has made deals to serve ads on Android lock screens. [Gizmodo] The editors are not happy. [subreddit]

Google and Chrome Developer Paul Kinlan: The Default Web. [blog]

Excluding digital content, M&A activity was down 21% quarter-over-quarter and 24% year-on-year, according to the LUMA Q2 2022 market report. [deck]