Biden nominates tech antitrust pioneer Lina Khan for FTC commissioner

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

I can’t begin to tell you what good news this is, and what a progressive voice Lina Khan will be against tech monopolies. Via The Verge:

“The pick signals that the Biden administration is preparing to take on some of the tech industry’s most powerful and influential companies. In 2017, Khan authored an article for the Yale Law Journal titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” which exploded in popularity in progressive economic policy circles. Khan has also served as an aide to the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on antitrust throughout its yearslong investigation into anticompetitive behavior in the tech industry.

“Khan’s nomination follows the appointment of Tim Wu, a Columbia Law professor, to work on technology and competition policy at the National Economic Council. Wu coined the term “net neutrality” and has been a prominent voice on the subject of antitrust regulation against Big Tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

“Biden’s choice of Khan to serve at the FTC comes as regulators, lawmakers, and the courts are facing immense pressure to take on Big Tech. The House Judiciary kicked off the second leg of its antitrust investigation last month and it’s poised to introduce competition legislation to rein in tech this spring.”

SCOTUS Makes It Easier to Sue Over Defective and Dangerous Products

Photo by Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash

Via the Law & Crime blog:

“The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday released a unanimous 8-0 ruling in a civil procedure case sure to result in a collective series of groans from first-year law students while keeping law school textbook manufacturers relevant and in furs for the foreseeable future.

“Justice Elena Kagan delivered the opinion of an engaged but ultimately undivided court. Justice Samuel Alito wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment—as did Justice Neil Gorsuch. Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part in the case because she was still unconfirmed during oral argument.

“The basic thrust of the controversies here — and the high court’s ultimate determination of them — is actually fairly simple and is lucidly explained in the very first paragraph of Kagan’s opinion. But to be clear, the decision in the case stylized as Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, is actually two cases rolled into one due to their substantially similar issues of fact and the law at stake.

“In each of these two cases, a state court held that it had jurisdiction over Ford Motor Company in a products liability suit stemming from a car accident,” Kagan notes. “The accident happened in the state where suit was brought. The victim was one of the state’s residents. And Ford did substantial business in the state — among other things, advertising, selling, and servicing the model of vehicle the suit claims is defective. Still, Ford contends that jurisdiction is improper because the particular car involved in the crash was not first sold in the [state where Ford was sued], nor was it designed or manufactured there.”

“We reject that argument,” the opinion continues. “When a company like Ford serves a market for a product in a State and that product causes injury in the state to one of its residents, the state’s courts may entertain the resulting suit.”

Want to borrow that e-book from the library? Sorry, Amazon won’t let you.

Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

When citizens can’t borrow e-books from the local library because Amazon has excelusive rights, it’s time for an anti-trust investigation. Via the Washington Post:

“You probably think of Amazon as the largest online bookstore. Amazon helped make e-books popular with the Kindle, now the dominant e-reader. Less well known is that since 2009, Amazon has published books and audiobooks under its own brands including Lake UnionThomas & Mercer and Audible. Amazon is a beast with many tentacles: It’s got the store, the reading devices and, increasingly, the words that go on them.

“Librarians have been no match for the beast. When authors sign up with a publisher, it decides how to distribute their work. With other big publishers, selling e-books and audiobooks to libraries is part of the mix — that’s why you’re able to digitally check out bestsellers like Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land.” Amazon is the only big publisher that flat-out blocks library digital collections. Search your local library’s website, and you won’t find recent e-books by Amazon authors Kaling, Dean Koontz or Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Nor will you find downloadable audiobooks for Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime,” Andy Weir’s “The Martian” and Michael Pollan’s “Caffeine.”

“Amazon does generally sell libraries physical books and audiobook CDs — though even print versions of Kaling’s latest aren’t available to libraries because Amazon made it an online exclusive.

“It’s hard to measure the hole Amazon is leaving in American libraries. Among e-books, Amazon published very few New York Times bestsellers in 2020; its Audible division produces audiobooks for more big authors and shows up on bestseller lists more frequently. You can get a sense of Amazon’s influence among its own customers from the Kindle bestseller list: In 2020, six of Amazon’s top 10 e-books were published by Amazon. And it’s not just about bestsellers: Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, the self-publishing business that’s open to anyone, produces many books about local history, personalities and communities that libraries have historically sought out.”