After charging hard into a market that had been almost entirely dominated by Amazon, Apple found itself facing antitrust charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice and 33 state attorneys general, culminating in a bench-trial courtroom loss in 2013, now on appeal. I missed it at the time, but a couple of months back Roger Parloff had a write-up at Fortune on why the key Apple executive at the center of the case “says he’d ‘do it again’ – but ‘take better notes.'”
“Do you really want a regulatory agency designing your iPad?” asks dissenting commissioner Joshua Wright. The Federal Trade Commission considers it an unfair consumer practice for Apple to leave a buying window open for fifteen minutes after password entrance during which further app purchases can be made without keying in the password again; occasionally children have approached an untended tablet and engaged in purchases without asking permission. [Gordon Crovitz, WSJ; Wright dissenting statement]
- “That Thing They Said They’re Not Doing? They’re Totally Doing.” [Daily Show with Jon Stewart] “Exactly What the State Says to Deceive You About Surveillance” [Conor Friedersdorf]
- “Warrantless Cellphone ‘Tower Dumps’ Becoming Go-To Tool For Law Enforcement” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt; Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post; David Kravets, Wired; USA Today (local law enforcement using, not just federal)]
- Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, AOL, LinkedIn, but telecoms absent: “U.S. Tech Industry Calls for Surveillance Reform” [Corporate Counsel, EFF, Marvin Ammori/USA Today]
- New Federalist Society symposium on NSA/FISA surveillance and bulk data collection includes names like Randy Barnett, Jim Harper, Jeremy Rabkin, Stewart Baker, Grover Joseph Rees [Engage, Randy Barnett]
- Nowadays “law enforcement can feel free to admit their traffic stops are pretextual” Thanks, Drug War! [Popehat] “Sobriety Checkpoints Paved Path to NSA Email Spying” [Wired]
- FATCA, the intrusive overseas tax enforcement law, isn’t couched in public controversy as a federal data-snooping issue, but it should be [Radley Balko, McClatchy]
I was a guest Friday on Fox Business Network’s The Willis Report, with guest host Dennis Kneale, to discuss two antitrust cases in the news: Apple’s vigorous efforts to fight back against a monitor appointed as part of its e-books antitrust case [Roger Parloff/Fortune, Alison Frankel/Reuters], and the FTC’s enforcement action against music teachers for anti-competitive practices. You can watch here.
I’ll save the (highly significant) Apple-vs.-monitor case for another post. The Federal Trade Commission’s enforcement action against music teachers, skillfully told by Kim Strassel in the WSJ, demonstrates what officialdom is willing to do with the legal sledgehammer that it claims to need to take on giant corporations like Apple: it uses that weaponry against the mild-mannered piano teacher next door and her little trade association. In a sane world, when the association said its hortatory statement had never been enforced and it would delete it from now on, the FTC’s enforcers would declare victory and move on to some more important case. That they did not do so here speaks volumes about the zeal, careerism and lack of proportion that add up to runaway government. More: George Leef, Forbes.
After taking it on the chin in a lengthy opinion by federal district judge Denise Cote, “Apple may be more cautious about entering into other markets with the same zeal.” [Macworld] George Priest, distinguished antitrust specialist at Yale, isn’t on board with the action against Apple: “When firms come up with new pricing schemes that force other companies to adopt new schemes, that’s a good thing” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes] Nor is Geoffrey Manne, who points out that authors have expressed alarm at the prospect of seeing the e-book market thrown back into Amazon’s hands. Ira Stoll wonders whether a presumption is being created that outsider firms should denounce incumbent monopolies to the government rather than disrupt them through vigorous market entry, while Wayne Crews says that by finding a clear Sherman Act violation, the government is merely showing how useless the law is. A different view from Bill Dyer: “Apple is going to have a very tough row to hoe on appeal.”
It’s being covered everywhere (Ars Technica, CNet, Above the Law) but not all the stories have been quick to pick up on this potentially relevant detail: “Sevier’s license to practice law was placed on ‘disability inactive status’ in December of 2011,” the reason given being “mental infirmity or illness.” [Ryan Grenoble, HuffPo]
Lawyer in Apple’s law firm turns out to have been secretly advising and investing in patent-holding entity (repped by Hagens Berman) preparing a legal onslaught against Apple. “Why didn’t Morgan Lewis … see an ethical problem in letting one of its partners invest in a patent troll, especially one specially designed to target one of the firm’s big clients? And how many other big-firm lawyers are entwined with ‘start-ups’ that are actually holding companies, created to attack the very corporations they are supposed to be defending?” [Joe Mullin, Ars Technica via @tedfrank]
“Apple doesn’t have a political action committee to fund incumbents’ re-elections. Apple doesn’t hire many congressional staff or any former congressmen as lobbyists. Apple mostly minds its own business — and how does that help the political class?” [Tim Carney, Washington Examiner]
“I’m sure you realize the asymmetry in the financial resources of our respective companies when you say: ‘We will both just end up paying a lot of lawyers a lot of money.'” [TheVerge.com]