23 July 2012

Hit the Beach!

Today's link sausage platter may — or may not — have extra silicone implants due to passing through Irvine, California so much...

  • Friday night involved a serious (or not so serious) flashback to the 70s. I was sitting in a gelato bar in Laguna Beach, reading the day's appellate opinions on my laptop, when three high school ageish girls walked in, sat down at the adjacent table... and gave a high-volume, unintentional, interpretive performance of a song popular before their birth, complete with high-pitched "like, oh my GOD!"s and a reference to getting a pedicure...
  • There has got to be a better way to handle fights over valuing art for estate taxes than spending more on lawyers objecting to taxes on a billion-dollar estate than would be required to pay off the student loans of several dozen especially promising young artists. If there is, though, we haven't developed it yet. There will be no winners in this particular controversy; it simultaneously epitomizes the worst features of the Infernal Revenue Service and the obliviousness of the 1%ers.
  • The Department of Justice has posted the public comments concerning the proposed antitrust settlement with Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster — amusingly, the URL points to "apple".

    Simultaneously, the DoJ has also filed its response to the public comments. The most-telling passage concerns the response of the defendants to Amazon's purported monopoly:

    B&N, BAM, the ABA, the Authors Guild, and other industry participants claim that collusive limits on retail discounting were a necessary response to anticompetitive behavior by Amazon and, thus, should be preserved. B&N claims these limits are necessary to avoid “competition with a potential Amazon below-cost price-point.” The ABA suggests that collusive agency pricing “corrects a distortion in the market fostered primarily by Amazon.com.” The Authors Guild insists that removing limits on retailer discounting will enable Amazon to use “predatory pricing” to return to a dominant or “monopoly” position and allow the company to charge supracompetitive prices for e-books in the future.

    * * *

    [E]ven if there were evidence to substantiate claims of “monopolization” or “predatory pricing,” they would not be sufficient to justify self-help in the form of collusion. When Congress enacted the Sherman Act, it did “not permit[] the age-old cry of ruinous competition and competitive evils to be a defense to price fixing,” no matter if such practices were “genuine or fancied competitive abuses” of the antitrust laws. Competitors may not “take the law into their own hands” to collectively punish an economic actor whose conduct displeases them, even if they believe that conduct to be illegal. Thus, whatever defendants’ and commenters’ perceived grievances against Amazon or any other firm are, they are no excuse for the conduct remedied by the proposed Final Judgment.

    Id., Doc. 81 at 20–23 (citations and footnotes omitted). That is precisely the hole in both Apple's and Pearson/Penguin's responses, as I noted previously (and I know I still "owe" a discussion on von Holtzbrinck/Macmillan's response... but a legal and factual development is making that rather more complex than I had hoped).

  • At the other end of the e-book supply chain, there's also some legal news. A group of authors has sued Harlequin over dodgy royalty accounting practices for e-books. I am shocked — shocked — to hear accusations of screwing authors out of their royalties through self-dealing between corporate affiliates. Given that two of the defendants in Wormyfruit remain under consent orders for similar misconduct...