Podcast: Steering with the Windshield Wipers

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my May Locus column: Steering with the Windshield Wipers. It makes the argument that much of the dysfunction of tech regulation -- from botched anti-sex-trafficking laws to the EU's plan to impose mass surveillance and censorship to root out copyright infringement -- are the result of trying to jury-rig tools to fix the problems of monopolies, without using anti-monopoly laws, because they have been systematically gutted for 40 years.

A lack of competition rewards bullies, and bullies have insatiable appetites. If your kid is starving because they keep getting beaten up for their lunch money, you can’t solve the problem by giving them more lunch money – the bullies will take that money too. Likewise: in the wildly unequal Borkean inferno we all inhabit, giving artists more copyright will just enrich the companies that control the markets we sell our works into – the media companies, who will demand that we sign over those rights as a condition of their patronage. Of course, these companies will be subsequently menaced and expropriated by the internet distribution companies. And while the media companies are reluctant to share their bounties with us artists, they reliably expect us to share their pain – a bad quarter often means canceled projects, late payments, and lower advances.

And yet, when a lack of competition creates inequities, we do not, by and large, reach for pro-competitive answers. We are the fallen descendants of a lost civilization, destroyed by Robert Bork in the 1970s, and we have forgotten that once we had a mighty tool for correcting our problems in the form of pro-competitive, antitrust enforcement: the power to block mergers, to break up conglomerates, to regulate anticompetitive conduct in the marketplace.

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Podcast: Fake News is an Oracle

In my latest podcast, I read my new Locus column: Fake News is an Oracle. For many years, I've been arguing that while science fiction can't predict the future, it can reveal important truths about the present: the stories writers tell reveal their hopes and fears about technology, while the stories that gain currency in our discourse and our media markets tell us about our latent societal aspirations and anxieties.

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Felony Contempt of Business Model: Lexmark's anti-competitive legacy

In 2002, Lexmark was one of the leading printer companies in the world. A division of IBM—the original tech giant—Lexmark was also a pioneer in the now-familiar practice of locking customers in to expensive "consumables," like the carbon powder that laser-printers fuse to paper to produce printouts. Read the rest

Congress orders Ajit Pai: hands off San Francisco's broadband competition law

San Francisco passed a law requiring owners of multi-unit buildings to choose which ISP they use, ending the practice of landlords selling access to tenants to ISPs, locking in the tenants to ISPs who don't have to keep them happy to keep their business. Read the rest

Robert Reich backs Elizabeth Warren's plan to break up Big Tech

Robert Reich (previously) served in the presidential administrations of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton, was Clinton's labor czar, and sat on Obama's economic transition advisory board; though he is generally on the Democratic Party's left flank, his own history shows that he has credibility with the establishment wing of the party as well. Read the rest

Podcast number 300: "Adversarial Interoperability: Reviving an Elegant Weapon From a More Civilized Age to Slay Today's Monopolies"

I just published the 300th installment of my podcast, which has been going since 2006 (!); I present a reading of my EFF Deeplinks essay Adversarial Interoperability: Reviving an Elegant Weapon From a More Civilized Age to Slay Today's Monopolies, where I introduce the idea of "Adversarial Interoperability," which allows users and toolsmiths to push back against monopolists. Read the rest

Join me today at 12PM Pacific/3PM Eastern for a New York Times/Periscope livestream about my "op-ed from the future"

Yesterday, the New York Times published my "op-ed from the future," an essay entitled "I Shouldn’t Have to Publish This in The New York Times," which tried to imagine what would happen to public discourse if the Big Tech platforms were forced to use algorithms to police their users' speech in order to fight extremism, trolling, copyright infringement, harassment, and so on. Read the rest

"I Shouldn't Have to Publish This in The New York Times": my op-ed from the future

I was honored to be invited to contribute to the New York Times's excellent "Op-Eds From the Future" series (previously), with an op-ed called "I Shouldn't Have to Publish This in The New York Times," set in the near-future, in which we have decided to solve the problems of Big Tech by making them liable for what their users say and do, thus ushering in an era in which all our speech is vetted by algorithms that delete anything that looks like misinformation, harassment, copyright infringement, incitement to terrorism, etc -- with the result that the only place where you can discuss anything of import is newspapers themselves. Read the rest

Canada's telcoms regulator adopts a sweeping new pro-competition agenda

For decades, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has been missing in action, standing idly by as Canada's telcom companies merged with each other and with media giants, created three bloated, anticompetitive vertically integrated monopolies; now the CRTC has repented its sins, adopting its proposed pro-competition agenda (which was bitterly opposed by the Big Three), with far-reaching implications for mobile virtual network operators, facilities sharing, rural coverage, accessibility and investment. The policy goes into effect immediately. Read the rest

Structural Separation: antitrust's tried-and-true weapon for monopolists who bottleneck markets

Back in 2017, a law student named Lena Khan made waves in policy circles with the publication of her massive, brilliant, game-changing 24,000-word article in the Yale Law Journal, Amazon's Antitrust Paradox, which revisited the entirety of post-Ronald-Reagan antitrust orthodoxy to show how it had allowed Amazon to become a brutal, harmful monopoly without any consequences from the regulators charged with ensuring competition in our markets. Read the rest

Adversarial interoperability: reviving an elegant weapon from a more civilized age to slay today's monopolies

Today, Apple is one of the largest, most profitable companies on Earth, but in the early 2000s, the company was fighting for its life. Microsoft's Windows operating system was ascendant, and Microsoft leveraged its dominance to ensure that every Windows user relied on its Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc). Apple users—a small minority of computer users—who wanted to exchange documents with the much larger world of Windows users were dependent on Microsoft's Office for the Macintosh operating system (which worked inconsistently with Windows Office documents, with unexpected behaviors like corrupting documents so they were no longer readable, or partially/incorrectly displaying parts of exchanged documents). Alternatively, Apple users could ask Windows users to export their Office documents to an "interoperable" file format like Rich Text Format (for text), or Comma-Separated Values (for spreadsheets). These, too, were inconsistent and error-prone, interpreted in different ways by different programs on both Mac and Windows systems. Read the rest

How DRM has permitted Google to have an "open source" browser that is still under its exclusive control

A year ago, Benjamin "Mako" Hill gave a groundbreaking lecture explaining how Big Tech companies had managed to monopolize all the benefits of free software licenses, using a combination of dirty tricks to ensure that the tools that were nominally owned by no one and licensed under free and open terms nevertheless remained under their control, so that the contributions that software developers made to "open" projects ended up benefiting big companies without big companies having to return the favor. Read the rest

Help wanted! EFF is hiring a new copyright/trademark litigator

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is hiring a new staff copyright/trademark litigator, and "experience with or strong interest in patent, unfair competition, administrative law, privacy and/or First Amendment litigation is preferred but not required." Read the rest

Europe's top trustbuster thinks it'll be impossible to break up Facebook

Margrethe Vestager (previously) is the EU Commissioner responsible for handing out billions in fines to Big Tech to punish them for monopolistic practices. Read the rest

Alex Stamos on the security problems of the platforms' content moderation, and what to do about them

Alex Stamos (previously) is the former Chief Security Officer of Yahoo and Facebook. I've jokingly called him a "human warrant canary" because it seems that whenever he leaves a job, we later learn that his departure was precipitated by some terrible compromise the company was making -- he says that he prefers to be thought of as "the Forrest Gump of infosec" because whenever there is a terrible geopolitical information warfare crisis, he's in the background, playing ping-pong. Read the rest

European telcos want the right to perform "deep packet inspection" on our data

[Austria's Epicentre Works is an incredibly effective European digital rights group, most famous for getting the EU's Data Retention Directive struck down; now, they're raising the alarm about a move to relax the EU's Net Neutrality rules to allow ISPs to conduct fine-grained surveillance and discrimination against services that aren't in bed with ISPs. I'm happy to provide Epicenter Works's Thomas Lohninger a space to highlight the group's efforts -Cory]

Today 45 NGOs, Academics and Companies from 15 countries released an open letter outlining the dangers of the wide-spread use of privacy invasive Deep Packet Inspection technology in the European Union. The letter is referencing the ongoing negotiations about Europes new net neutrality rules in which some telecom regulators are pushing for the legalization of DPI technology. Read the rest

Amazon's monopsony power: the other antitrust white meat

In 2017, law student Lina Khan shifted the debate on Amazon and antitrust with a seminal paper called Amazon's Antitrust Paradox, which used Amazon's abusive market dominance to criticize the Reagan-era shift in antitrust enforcement, which rewrote the criteria for antitrust enforcement, so that antitrust no longer concerned itself with preventing monopoly, and only focused on "consumer harm" in the form of higher prices. Read the rest

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