Antitrust experts say publishing is not a special case

Do publishers deserve special treatment from anti-trust courts? Paid Content reports on antitrust experts who said no at a New York book event this week:

“There’s never been a defendant sued for antitrust who didn’t think their market was special,” said Chris Sagers of Cleveland State University, adding that “agency pricing”  (a commission-style pricing system used by the publishers to check Amazon) is just another word for price-fixing.

This is basically in line with the arguments the Department of Justice made in its response to public comments, and its arguments in the hearings concerning whether the proposed settlement should go through; Judge Denise Cote evidently found it convincing, since she permitted the settlement to go through without any delays.

But meanwhile, people like Bob Kohn have been insisting that, no, the publishing market is special, and citing precedents like crazy to support their case. It kind of makes me wonder—will the settlement survive appeal? Will the publishers who didn’t choose to settle lose in court as the DoJ’s legal theory wins out? The more experts chime in affirmatively, the more likely it starts to seem to me. I look forward to finding out.

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2 Comments on Antitrust experts say publishing is not a special case

  1. This administration, which we’ll no be stuck with for four more years, believes that the Yahoos out in the hinterlands need the benevolent hand of those inside the DC beltway to guide them. Of course it probably doesn’t hurt that the lawyers the DOJ has contracted are raking in more money ($400 and up an hour) than almost anyone in the book industry, Big Six executives included. Oh how I hate lawyers!

    And I fail to see why, if antitrust and similar laws apply equally well to publishing, the DOJ isn’t going after giant Amazon. That’s a bit like ignoring GM in the 1950s and attacking little Studebaker.

  2. Wasn’t it the “most favored nation” clause in Apple’s version of the agency model that was the crux of the matter? The concept of agency pricing (adding a margin to the price demanded by the seller) isn’t collusive in and of itself, is it?
    As for Amazon, it will surely have its day in the docket.

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