Big Tech got big because we stopped enforcing antitrust law (not because tech is intrinsically monopolistic)

Tim Wu (previously) is a legal scholar best known for coining the term "Net Neutrality" -- his next book, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age (previously) challenges the accepted wisdom about today's digital monopolists, which is that they grew so big because of some underlying truth about online business ("first-mover advantage," "network effects," "globalism," etc). Instead, Wu argues that the reason we got digital monopolies is that we stopped enforcing anti-monopoly rules against digital companies (and then against all kinds of companies). Read the rest

Apple's war on repair continues: Amazon now bans refurb Apple products from third parties

Apple has long understood that hardware products that last a long time result in falling unit sales, as customers opt to keep their old machines instead of buying the latest models; that's part of why the company led the charge that killed every single Right to Repair bill introduced last year -- less repairs leads to more "recycling," which is Applespeak for dropping used units into giant shredders without harvesting any usable parts first. Read the rest

AT&T disconnects whole families from the internet because someone in their house is accused of copyright infringement

It's been five years since America's super-concentrated telcoms sector announced their "voluntary Copyright Alert system" (AKA Six Strikes), a system that said that if your someone in your household was accused of six acts of copyright infringement, everyone in your house would get the internet death penalty, having your net connection terminated. Read the rest

Analyst: Apple's poor earnings will recover now they've switched from innovating to rent-seeking

Apple just had a really poor Q3 earnings report, with hardware sales falling off as people figure out that they just don't need to get a new phone every year or so; writing in Bloomberg, Leonid Bershidsky tries to soothe investors by pointing out that Apple is still seeing growth in "services" and that there's plenty more growth to be realized there. Read the rest

Cut the cord NOW: Cable bills are up 50% since 2010

My local cable monopoly is Spectrum, part of Charter, and I refuse to get anything except internet service through them (alas, my city, Burbank, will not sell me access to our amazing, 100GB/s fiber network, which runs directly under my house, because they have a deal with Charter not to connect any non-commercial-zoned properties to our muni fiber). Read the rest

All the economists who told the FTC we shouldn't break up Big Tech are paid by Big Tech

From the Open Markets Institute's Mat Stoller and Austin Frederick, who analyzed the FTC's panel, "The Current Economic Understanding of Multi-Sided Platforms," in which economic experts told the regulator that Big Tech's monopoly power just isn't a problem: "every single economist testifying on the issue of corporate concentration derived income, directly or indirectly, from large corporations. Beyond that, the hearing itself was held at the Antonin Scalia Law School, which is financed by Google and Amazon." 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

Nobel-winning economist Joe Stiglitz on how the US economy became a "rigged, inherited plutocracy" and how to fix it

Writing in Scientific American (!), Nobel-prize-winning economist Joseph E Stiglitz (previously) describes the US economy as an "inherited plutocracy" that's "rigged" to shift an ever-greater share of the national wealth to the very richest people: Stiglitz blames the rigging on Ronald Reagan's dismantling of antitrust enforcement, inheritance tax, and other progressive measures 40 years ago -- and says that the orthodox economic apologists for economists who attribute inequality to globalism or other factors are wrong and unsupported by evidence. Read the rest

GDPR: Good for privacy, even better for Google's dominance

The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation is a gnarly hairball of regulation; on the one hand, it makes it virtually impossible to collect mountains of data and buy/sell/trade/mine it to a corporation's heart's content; on the other hand, it imposes a ton of expensive compliance steps on its targets like high-cost record-keeping, and it apportions liability to website operators whose advertisers are out of compliance with the regulation. Read the rest

Facebook's spam filter blocked the most popular articles about its 50m user breach

When news broke yesterday that Facebook had suffered a breach affecting at least 50,000,000 users, Facebook users (understandably) began to widely share links to articles about the breach. Read the rest

Want the platforms to police bad speech and fake news? The copyright wars want a word with you.

There are lots of calls for the platforms to police the bad speech on their platform -- disinformation and fake news; hate speech and harassment, extremist content and so on -- and while that would represent a major shift in how Big Tech relates to the materials generated and shared by its users, it's not without precedent. Read the rest

Big Tech is building a $80B capex wall around its empire

Big Tech companies -- like all the apex predators of all the world's concentrated industries -- is swimming in cash; but unlike those other firms, Big Tech is not using the cash merely for financial engineering; it's doing actual engineering, sinking $80B this year into capital expenditures that will form a wall around the industry's incumbents, which new firms will have to scale in order to challenge them. Read the rest

To fix Canadian copyright, let creators claim their rights back after 25 years

Copyright markets are -- and always have been -- broken. People make art because they have to, and there's always a middle-man ready to take advantage of the oversupply of willing creators to grab our rights and pay us peanuts. Read the rest

Ticketmaster stung by undercover journalists, who reveal that the company deliberately enables scalpers and rips off artists

Even in this era, dominated by vertically and horizontally dominant monopolists, few companies are as chronically dirty and corrupt as Ticketmaster (previously), whose parent company, Livenation, is the world's largest concert promoter. Controlling promotion and ticketing is a one-two punch for a monopolist: Livenation's rival promoters still inevitably end up selling tickets through Ticketmaster, enriching their biggest competitor. Read the rest

The most popular "privacy" tool in Apple's Mac App Store was stealing users' browsing history and sending it to China

Apple pioneered the idea of "app stores," where operating system vendors got to decide who could distribute software that ran on their platforms, arguing that these "curated" stores would ensure high quality and protect users from malicious and inferior code. Read the rest

Tim "Net Neutrality" Wu on the case for breaking up Facebook

Competition scholar and cyberlawyer Tim Wu (previously) is best known for coining the term "Net Neutrality," but his work ranges over all sorts of issues related to technology, competition, monopoly and innovation; in his forthcoming book, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, he makes the case for breaking up the tech giants, starting with Facebook -- because the problem with Big Tech isn't "tech," it's "big." Read the rest

I'm heading to New York for a lecture series at Columbia!

Columbia University's Brown Institute is hosting me for a trio of lectures later this month in New York City: I kick off with a conversation with the Brown's Dennis Tenen about science fiction, copyright, and the arts on Sept 25, then a lecture on copyright and surveillance on Sept 26, and wrap up with an onstage conversation with Radiolab's Jad Abumrad about Big Tech, monopolies, and democratic technology on Sept 27. (I'm also dropping by Swarthmore for a lecture on Sept 28, details to follow). Read the rest

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