A law professor’s new book frames the 2012 antitrust suit as an open-and-shut case unlawful pricing conspiracy. The former publisher of the Wall Street Journal disagrees.
From L. Gordon Crovitz’ review of “‘United States v. Apple’ Review: In Competition We Trust” by Chris Sagers in Monday’s Wall Street Journal ($):
When Steve Jobs decided to include e-books on the iPad in 2010, Kindle had a 90% market share. So book publishers were again delighted—that Apple would be entering the market with its revenue-share model and letting publishers set the prices for their e-books. The largest publishers met among themselves to agree on the terms for licensing their books to Apple. The government sued, claiming an unlawful conspiracy masterminded by Apple.
Mr. Sagers sees this as an open-and-shut case of an unlawful pricing conspiracy and expresses surprise that there was so much support for the book publishers and Apple…
Mr. Sagers believes that opposition to the Apple case shows that Americans are ambivalent about competition. There are times, he says, when “competition seems destructive.” When antitrust law requires firms to compete in such circumstances, then “antitrust itself has seemed like a failure.” The government claimed that Apple conspired with book publishers, risking higher prices, but the case was perceived as a government favor to Amazon, which it was.
My take: Bad cases make bad law.
See also: The view from the hard benches.