The Boston Globe on breaking up Big Tech falls into the trap of tech exceptionalism

The Boston Globe has published a giant weekend package of responses to Elizabeth Warren's proposal to break up the Big Tech monopolies. Read the rest

Facebook and Big Tech are monopsonies, even when they're not monopolies

Big Tech is often in a monopoly situation (for example, Amazon's Audible owns something like 90% of the audiobook market), but even where they aren't monopolies, they are often monopsonies: a single buyer that controls the whole market that a variety of sellers want to sell into. Read the rest

Spotify's antitrust complaint against Apple is a neat parable about Big Tech's monopoly

Spotify has asked the EU Commission to intervene in its business relationship with Apple, citing the fact that Apple takes a 30% vig on all customer revenues from people who join the service or buy songs through an Iphone app, while Apple's own competing Itunes store does not have to pay this commission. Read the rest

One company bought all the retail outlets for glasses, used that to force sales of all the eyewear companies and jacked up prices by as much as 1000%

If you wear glasses, you might have noticed that they've been getting steadily more expensive in recent years, no matter which brand you buy and no matter where you shop. Read the rest

Elizabeth Warren reveals her plan to break up Big Tech

Would-be Democratic Presidential nominee Elizabeth Warren (I've donated to her campaign, as well as Bernie Sanders') has published her latest policy prescription: a plan to break up Big Tech monopolists to protect the public's privacy and the interests of small-business competitors. Read the rest

The FAIR Act will end forced arbitration for employment, consumer, antitrust and civil rights disputes

Forced arbitration "agreements" are how corporate America gets workers, tenants and customers to sign away their legal rights, substituting kangaroo courts where the "judge" is a lawyer paid by the corporation that abused you, and where the rules are whatever the corporation says they should be; The FAIR Act invalidates the use of arbitration to settle disputes over employment, consumer rights, antitrust and civil rights; it has 147 co-sponsors in the House and 34 in the Senate (all Democrats -- Republicans love forced arbitration!), and its only hope of passing is if Democrats nuke the filibuster rule the next time they control the House, Senate and Presidency (that is, in 2020). Read the rest

Beyond "more copyright": how do we improve artists' lives and livelihoods through policy?

Last year while I was on tour in Australia with my novel Walkaway, I sat down for an interview with legal scholar Rebecca Giblin (previously), whose Authors' Interest project studies how we would craft copyright (and other policies) if we wanted to benefit creators, rather than enriching corporations; we talked about the power and limits of copyright to benefit authors, and how other policies, like antitrust, are crucial to getting authors their fair share. Read the rest

Even without explicit collusion, pricing algorithms converge on price-fixing strategies

Literally the only kind of monopolistic behavior that the US government is willing to prosecute is price fixing, and that's why it's so important to read Artificial intelligence, algorithmic pricing, and collusion, a paper by four Italian economists from the University of Bologna who document how price-fixing is an emergent property of pricing algorithms -- the systems online merchants use to price-match with their competitors. Read the rest

The Curse of Bigness: Tim Wu channels Brandeis on Big Tech (and Big Everything Else)

Tim Wu (previously) is best known for coining the term "Net Neutrality" but the way he got there was through antitrust and competition scholarship: in his latest book, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, Wu takes a sprightly-yet-maddening tour through the history of competition policy in the USA, which has its origins in curbing the near-limitless power of the robber barons in the name of creating a pluralistic, open society where anyone could participate, only to have this vision perverted by extremists from the Chicago School, who sold (with the help of wealthy backers) a wholly fictional version of what Congress intended with its antitrust rules. According to Chicago's version of things, the only thing antitrust should concern itself with is the highly technical and speculative question of "consumer harm" (in the form of higher prices) and not competition itself. Read the rest

The EU's ambitious, fearless antitrust czar is unlikely to win another term

Margrethe Vestager (previously) has been the EU antitrust commissioner for five years, and now she is getting ready to step down (her party is unlikely to prevail next year, so she will likely be replaced), having presided over an unprecedented era of antitrust enforcement that has seen billions of euros extracted in penalties from Google, Apple and Facebook, with Amazon now under her microscope. Read the rest

Trustbusting is now a bipartisan issue

Ronald Reagan may be sainted by the right, but 2018 was the year conservatives broke with his slavish, simpleminded adherence to the Chicago School antitrust theory that says that governments should only regulate monopolies when they give rise to higher consumer prices -- it's also the year the right realized that extreme market concentration in the tech sector could lead to a future in which conspiracy theorists, Nazis, "white identity enthusiasts," and crank misogynists might find themselves with nowhere to talk and be heard by others. Read the rest

Adam Ruins Big Tech: how monopolies, DRM, EULAs, and predatory tactics have delivered our dystopian future

The latest episode of the always-outstanding Adam Ruins Everything (previously) is my favorite yet: a wide-ranging look at the way that tech has exploited policy loopholes to monopolize control over repairs, features, parts and consumables; to spy on users; to use predatory pricing to crush competitors; to avoid taxation; and to become a force for oligarchic control. Read the rest

Comcast cranks up extra charges on cable bills, again, even for people who signed contracts promising a lower rate

Once again, Comcast is repeating its annual tradition of hiking "broadcast TV" and "regional sports network" hidden fees at a rate far above inflation, typically raising them from $14.50 to $18.25/month, rise of about 25%. Read the rest

Missouri's latest senator is part of a wave of (extremely selective) Republican enthusiasm for trustbusting

When Josh Hawley was Attorney General of Missouri, he was an (extremely selective) firebreathing trustbuster who used his office to chase Google up and down the state, investigating the company's anticompetitive action and the pontential for public harm represented by its market dominance and size. Read the rest

Taylor Swift makes a payout to all Universal artists a clause in her new record deal

Taylor Swift's latest record deal contained a clause in which Universal finally committed to sharing any gains from a future sale of Spotify (which the company invested in along with Sony and Warner) with all its artists, not just those whose accounts are in the black. Read the rest

Coalition of small cable operators calls for antitrust investigation into Comcast (Trump agrees)

The American Cable Association (ACA) represents 700+ small/medium US cable operators; they've written to the Assistant Attorney General calling for an "immediate" antitrust investigation into Comcast's business practices, a call that was supported by Donald Trump in a tweet. Read the rest

Deleting Facebook is not enough: without antitrust, the company will be our lives' "operating system"

Facebook is the poster-child for the techlash, the worst offender in the monopolistic bunch, and recent books like Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy by Siva Vaidhyanathan (previously) and Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier present variations on the main critiques of Facebook with some prescriptions for what to do about it. Read the rest

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