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Reboot the FCC:

Larry Lessig has an interesting column in Newsweek today calling for the dismantling of the FCC:

The solution here is not tinkering. You can't fix DNA. You have to bury it. President Obama should get Congress to shut down the FCC and similar vestigial regulators, which put stability and special interests above the public good. In their place, Congress should create something we could call the Innovation Environment Protection Agency (iEPA), charged with a simple founding mission: "minimal intervention to maximize innovation." The iEPA's core purpose would be to protect innovation from its two historical enemies—excessive government favors, and excessive private monopoly power.

Lessig has always been a hard guy to pin down politically (a compliment). Though he is sometimes caricatured as something of a doctrinaire liberal, his views are usually much more nuanced and interesting than that label suggests, and this is a good example. While people on "the right" have been calling for abolition of the FCC for years, it's interesting (and possibly important, given that Lessig probably has, if not Obama's ear directly, certainly the ear of those who have Obama's ear ...) that those more closely aligned on "the left" are making the argument now. I think he's on to something -- minimal intervention to maximize innovation and to curb monopoly power (whether government-created or not) sounds like good policy to me (though the devil, here as elsewhere, is probably in the details).

GeneralObvious:
But repealing the FCC might put a damper on a possible revival of the Fairness Doctrine. I'm sure plenty on the left at least want that potential door to remain open.
12.24.2008 11:08am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I don't think that Lessig's proposal per se is problematic, I also don't see it as non-liberal. He still operates under the assumption that there's such a thing (to steal from Milton Friedman) as a barking cat. That there's such a thing as a regulatory agency not subject to regulatory capture and mission creep. That all we need is the right mission statement and a government agency will do good things rather than bad things. Whether one agrees with those ideas or not, they're fundamentally liberal, not conservative or libertarian.
12.24.2008 11:22am
martinned (mail) (www):
Seriously? When even Posner senior is having second thoughts about deregulation, we're talking about deregulating the communications sector(s)?
12.24.2008 11:22am
tarheel:
I'm interested in your assertion that "the right" has been calling for the abolition of the FCC for years. Last I checked, a large part of "the right" has been seeking to aggrandize the agency's power to stamp out "indecency" wherever it may be found.

The iEPA is a cute idea, but I doubt any new agency will be markedly different than the current regime.
12.24.2008 11:39am
AlanW (mail):
As someone who has recently been attempting to work with the agency, allow me to say that I realize there's a million problems with axing the FCC altogether, but if any federal agency deserves it, that one would be at the head of my list.

It really embodies the worst qualities of big government, hidebound bureaucracy and implements them in a way to make all of our lives just marginally worse.

Obviously, there's limited bandwidth available, and someone has to organize that bandwidth, but could we at least agree to chuck all the public interest parts of its portfolio? The pathetic indecency monitoring and counting the hours of educational programming and really pretty much anything to do with content.

On a related topic, if the FCC wasn't 40 years behind the times, it would have tossed the newspaper-TV cross ownership ban a decade ago and both TV and paper news might be better off - or at least further down the road toward becoming whatever it is they're turning into.

Ugh, just kill it. Kill it dead.
12.24.2008 11:57am
A. Zarkov (mail):
I don't think the FCC should be monitoring content. But I do see a need to prevent media empires from owning chains of TV stations and newspapers. Murdoch is a good example.
12.24.2008 12:11pm
Javert:
Isn't "excessive private monopoly power," in his view, patents and copyrights? If so, those are the protectors, not enemies, of innovation.
12.24.2008 12:22pm
visiting texas lawyer (mail):

He still operates under the assumption that there's such a thing (to steal from Milton Friedman) as a barking cat. That there's such a thing as a regulatory agency not subject to regulatory capture and mission creep.


Ever since I read Dr. Seus "Who speaks for the trees" (or what that Justice Douglas) about giving standing to entities to intervene where a government agency has standing but has been subjected to capture, I've realized that the legal system has not dealt well with the concept of capture.

What I'd really like to see is an approach for avoiding capture rather than the thought that if we just start over we can abolish it by fiat.

The real problem has to be recognized and approached. Right now it looks like we are getting suggested solutions without a connection to the actual problem. As a result, all we get are barking cats.


/Sigh
12.24.2008 12:29pm
JB:
The FCC should be stripped of content jurisdiction entirely. Its purpose should be monitoring the communications utilities--broadcast spectrum, phone lines/cells, internet, cable, etc--to ensure the high quality of the service provided and to stop bad business behavior on the part of the providers. What gets sent along those lines should be none of its concern.

That said, David Nieporent is right that, even if we minimize the responsibilities of a regulatory agency, we've just confined rather than solved the problem. What we need to do is limit regulation to those areas where the costs of maleficience on the part of businesses are even higher than those of complying with the bureaucracy.

Tarheel is also right--the movement to increase the FCC's powers, invasiveness, and capacity to waste time, money, and energy is fully bipartisan at this point. The Right is as much to blame as the Left.
12.24.2008 12:33pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Well, at least the proposal's useful to illustrate the (recently debated) difference between obscenity and profanity: "Close a government agency? F**k that!"

I suggest that any attempt to shut down the FCC will somehow, magically, be transformed into an increase in its budget.
12.24.2008 12:34pm
Sarcastro (www):
[I agree with A. Zarkov. It's a Christmas Miracle!]
12.24.2008 12:49pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
By all means, let's stop private monopolies. Without government protection from such entities, we will over and over again be subject to the horrors of companies like Microsoft releasing a new copy of its operating system every year (and charging $50 for it), or -- and this one really infuriates me -- including a web browser for free with its operating system! (Anyone recall how many millions (billions?) of dollars were spent litigating just these issues?)
12.24.2008 1:00pm
jhn:
If you're opposed to media consolidation, as many are, I fail to see why antitrust law as administered by the FTC and DoJ is not sufficient. Why is media so different that it needs a whole new agency?
12.24.2008 1:04pm
jhn:
@ Javert

"Intellectual property" laws as they exist today are pure rent-seeking regulations that benefit corporations that can hire lobbyists, not actual artists and inventors. Lessig never has said that IP laws aren't needed. But they should be drastically limited in scope. The burden should be on those who propose private monopolies to demonstrate how they would promote creativity.

Lessig had the right argument in Eldred. Retroactive IP extensions ought to be unconstitutional.
12.24.2008 1:09pm
tarheel:
AlanW:

I too just started working on FCC-related issues. The children's/educational programming reports are surely the most useless time-suck known to man. I would bet everything I own that not more than 100 people in a year (non-FCC inspectors, that is) across the entire country actually walk into a TV station, ask to see their public inspection file, and look through the entire 40 or 50 page children's programming report.

Oh well. More billable hours for me.
12.24.2008 1:13pm
Kirk:
AlanW,

You only put the FCC ahead of the BATFE because you've never worked with the latter.

(And yes, there are some good corners even within that latter agency, but those who deal with firearms licensees and other NFA/GCA issues are most definitely not among them.)
12.24.2008 1:23pm
Tatil:

Isn't "excessive private monopoly power," in his view, patents and copyrights? If so, those are the protectors, not enemies, of innovation.

Patents also prevent others from innovating as well. We impose costs on society to encourage innovation, but some recent research suggests the costs are about the same or a bit more than the benefits. Lately the patent system is being abused a lot by companies which somehow get awarded patents without much innovation, so the patent system should be at least reformed to rebalance the costs and benefits.

In any case, what do patents have to do with FCC?
12.24.2008 1:23pm
MCM (mail):
Isn't "excessive private monopoly power," in his view, patents and copyrights? If so, those are the protectors, not enemies, of innovation.


Copyright itself? Not necessarily.

Retroactive extension of copyrights already granted (and potentially expired)? Definitely.
12.24.2008 1:31pm
Ken Arromdee:
Without government protection from such entities, we will over and over again be subject to the horrors of companies like Microsoft releasing a new copy of its operating system every year (and charging $50 for it), or -- and this one really infuriates me -- including a web browser for free with its operating system! (Anyone recall how many millions (billions?) of dollars were spent litigating just these issues?)

Microsoft only gets to make its money because intellectual property is a government-granted monopoly.

And the "free" Internet Explorer web browser isn't really *free*; it's bundled. You're paying for it, it's just that the pricing structure is such that you have to pay for it even if you're buying another brand.
12.24.2008 1:41pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Tatil:

In any case, what do patents have to do with FCC?

A good question, but not one that will stop me from ritually cursing the USPTO and all its works: for the vast majority of Americans (defined here as those without $10,000 to $50,000 to risk), there is no patent system.
12.24.2008 1:47pm
Fub:
tarheel wrote at 12.24.2008 1:13pm:
I would bet everything I own that not more than 100 people in a year (non-FCC inspectors, that is) across the entire country actually walk into a TV station, ask to see their public inspection file, and look through the entire 40 or 50 page children's programming report.
Rough rule of thumb: Anybody who wants to see a broadcasters public inspection file is preparing an attack on the broadcaster's license. It's not always true, but it's the way to bet.

FCC inspectors will check the PIF in a general station inspection. But inspections are usually in response to a complaint unrelated to the PIF, such as a broadcast signal issue.
12.24.2008 2:26pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
Ken Arromdee -- Thanks for the economic lesson that "the 'free' Internet Explorer web browser isn't really *free*; it's bundled." It was precisely this bundling that millions (billions?) were spent litigating about, and complaining about this litigation was obviously my point.

As far as the IP protection that Microsoft receives:
Are you saying there should be no such protection? Or are you saying that in return for such protection, Microsoft should give to the government such a degree of control over it that the government gets to decide -- for example -- exactly what should be bundled as part of an operating system?

I think we need IP laws in spite of the fact that they violate property rights, and getting the balance right is the difficult part. I'm not convinced that we need antitrust legislation at all.
12.24.2008 2:41pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
LTEC:

My OS gets new releases every 6 months, which I download free of charge from the official website. Web browser, office suite, and software engineering tools are included.

Try it: http://www.fedoraproject.org

Hopefully shortly some of my own software will be included too (also free of charge).

As for replacing the FCC.... I think that one needs to separate what the FCC does well from the less useful areas, and ensure that those important areas get regulated while the others don't.

Basically this means defining radio frequency emission requirements for electronics, regulating radio frequency spectrum allotment, etc. and getting out of the content areas.

Of course this won't happen..... Both sides want to regulate content..... We do need to deregulate the content to some extent and rely in rating systems rather than indecency rules.
12.24.2008 2:44pm
Bewildered:
Uh, Lessig's views are easy to pin down:

Anything Lessig disagrees with policy wise = unconstitutional.
12.24.2008 3:08pm
jwilcox2009:

The iEPA is a cute idea, but I doubt any new agency will be markedly different than the current regime.


I agree. Who is likely to fill the various positions in the iEPA? Mostly the same people who were occupying similar jobs in the FCC and other "vestigial regulator" for the same reasons that the administration of change is filling many of its high-level posts with former high-level Clinton officials.
12.24.2008 3:50pm
MCM (mail):
Bewildered, do you have any good examples besides Eldred v. Ashcroft, for which Lessig has a pretty good argument?

As far as the IP protection that Microsoft receives:
Are you saying there should be no such protection?


At the very least, we should probably not use the same regime for software that we do for movies and books. And yes, there are plenty of good arguments for software getting little or no IP protection. Particularly if we're going to continue to allow shrinkwrap licenses as we do.
12.24.2008 4:02pm
Cornellian (mail):
Uh, Lessig's views are easy to pin down:

Anything Lessig disagrees with policy wise = unconstitutional.


Has he argued that the FCC is unconstitutional?
12.24.2008 5:18pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Lessig's politics are only "hard to pin down" if you think of politics as ideological. He's a classic interest group advocate, whose interest group happens to be technerds. The word "innovation" is code--if you'll pardon the terminology--for "stuff technerds like to do, and want to have lots of freedom/subsidy/encouragement to do".

When he sees technerds as benefiting from some public policy, he advocates it. Today he seems to believe that the FCC "stifles innovation", and therefore should be abolished. But if he gets his wish and the FCC is abolished, and the resulting broadcast industry ends up being dominated by companies that don't benefit technerds, he can be relied upon to demand re-regulation that benefits technerds--er, "innovation".
12.24.2008 5:29pm
MLS:
In any discussion about "innovation" it is useful for parties to first present their definition of the term.

For many, if not most, who deal with patent law, the term generally connotes "a better mousetrap", even if what makes it better is an incremental change.

For a few who are mostly not involved with patent law, the term is used not to connote "a better mousetrap", but the process of taking something to market in a timely and effective manner...even if that something is the "better mousetrap" invented by another.

Yes, there are purportedly empirical studies concerning the perceived failures of the patent system to promote "innovation", but in virtually all of these studies the term "innovation" has been used in the latter sense. Against Monopoly by Boldrin and Levine is but one of several examples of such flawed studies.
12.24.2008 5:58pm
David Welker (www):

That there's such a thing as a regulatory agency not subject to regulatory capture and mission creep. That all we need is the right mission statement and a government agency will do good things rather than bad things.


Wow. You must really think liberals are just stupid, don't you? You are wrong. You seem to think that liberals have to think the government is perfect in order to support it. Because, apparently, you yourself would support it only if it was perfect. (Is the market perfect? Is anything in life? No. Yet, somehow we carry on.)

Are regulatory agencies subject to some degree of influence by the industries they regulate? Yes. The libertarian (aka "public choice school") term "capture" is just overblown rhetoric bordering on propaganda. Regulated agencies are influenced to greater or lesser degrees in different contexts by the industries they regulate, they are not totally controlled by such industries. In some contexts, regulated industries do not have as much influence over regulators. In some contexts, the influence of regulated industries leads to more rational regulation.

Do libertarians really believe that regulatory agencies are totally controlled by the industries they regulate (i.e. that is, really captured). Well, I would suggest that those libertarians with a minimal level of intelligence, which I assume includes David Nieporent, do not take their own overblown rhetoric literally.

As far as the point about all that is needed is a good mission statement and somehow everything will magically work out perfectly, no one who is serious believes that.

So, my question is this. Why does David Nieporent (and more significantly, others like him) insist on characterizing liberalism in such a ridiculous manner? Is that the only way you can maintain confidence in your own beliefs?
12.24.2008 6:03pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
To expand on MCM's views a little:

At the very least, we should probably not use the same regime for software that we do for movies and books. And yes, there are plenty of good arguments for software getting little or no IP protection. Particularly if we're going to continue to allow shrinkwrap licenses as we do.



I think we should go back to a 28-year copyright term for software and require that the primary registered work must be the source code. After the 28 years, the source code becomes public domain.

At the moment, software is copyrighted for an effectively unlimited term (software is revealed in a binary-only way, and will probably remain copyrighted its entire usable life). This seems contrary to the intentions in the Constitution's copyright clause. If the source code were to become available after 28 years, it would mean that at least that form of expression would be usable by others, as copyright was intended to encourage before "limited times" became a bad joke.

Note that like most things, software is generally not particularly useful after 28 years by itself. However, it could then be studied and used to teach the next generation of engineers.

Note that a lot of this really is becoming academic though. Open source software is now being used to teach engineers, and this poses problems for companies like Microsoft (what about the possibility of non-literal copying from open source simply because of the intensive experience with the code in school?), expecially where licenses like the GNU GPL are used.

However, back to the topic at hand...

The issue with abolishing the FCC and creating a new regulatory agency to take over parts of what it does though is that it is unclear that one could build any reasonable consensus regarding what the mission should be. Both the right and left want to see the FCC involved in content regulation, and there are likely to be sincere disagreements over issues like net neutrality-related roles, and common carrier regulation.

The minimalist solution would probably make nobody happy and would involve nationalizing the local phone lines, and then renting them out to ALL vendors. While this makes a good deal of sense in the abstract, I am not at all convinced the federal government should do this (maybe state and county governments would be better prepared if the idea were to be accepted). This way one could, however, push for real competition in phone and internet service well beyond what is available today.

Everyone hates the FCC when they are out of power though because the policies particularly regarding competition tend to be steered by the other guys. Nobody really wants to get rid of it though when they get power.
12.24.2008 7:24pm
Cornellian (mail):
He's a classic interest group advocate, whose interest group happens to be technerds. The word "innovation" is code--if you'll pardon the terminology--for "stuff technerds like to do, and want to have lots of freedom/subsidy/encouragement to do".

To the extent that government is going to encourage anything, it could do a lot worse than to encourage "technerds" to do what they do.
12.24.2008 7:51pm
social scientist:
This sounds like vintage Theodore Lowi and Mancur Olson, which is to say it's an argument about the nature of the state which is neither left nor right.
12.24.2008 8:03pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
To the extent that government is going to encourage anything, it could do a lot worse than to encourage "technerds" to do what they do.

Sure--or farmers, for that matter, or small businesspeople, or artists and musicians...
12.24.2008 8:34pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
LTEC:

I'm not convinced that we need antitrust legislation at all.


I think antitrust law is at the core of a true free market.

If you have the capacity for large companies to destroy the marketplace in order to further their own security, they will do it. If you have no recourse against them, they wil do it more.

Back in the early days of Ma Bell, that company would use their close association with JP Morgan to ensure that competitor's loans were called in early, allowing them to buy the bankrupt competitors at pennies on the dollar. Free markets and unregulated monopolies are mutually exclusive.
12.25.2008 2:22am
PlugInMonster:
The FCC is another case of where the far left &far right are tyrannizing the rest of us. In fact 90% of government are the 2 extremes engaging in active tyrannical controls. Now, I ask you, if a plurality of the American people are not in those 2 extremes, why we controlled. Well if the extreme left and right represent 55-60% combined, they can control the rest of us. Think about the drug war, there is usually 70% consensus on continuing it despite the sheer insanity of it.
12.25.2008 4:37am
edr1 (mail):
Re 'einhverfr' recommendation of the Fedora (Linux) OS distribution: Please read the website carefully!

Fedora is NOT intended for 'production' use. While it is generally stable, some of the software can be beta development versions. There are sometime hardware issues;
i.e. difficulty in installing or running some peripherals.

Fedora is both a community project and the development platform for the Red Hat Enterprise commercial distribution.

There are related alternatives. These are clones of the free source code of RH Enterprise.
Scientific Linux (www.scientificlinux.org); primarily produced by Fermi National Lab and CERN.
Centos (www.centos.org) A internet community distribution.
12.25.2008 9:22am
Gabriel McCall (mail):
Has he argued that the FCC is unconstitutional?


If he hasn't, I will. There's no constitutional authority for the FCC.

The Communications Act of 1934 used the COmmerce Clause as its foundation; however, transmitting a radio signal across state lines is not an act of "commerce" for any meaningful definition of the word. And even if it were commerce, it wouldn't give the FCC power to regulate intrastate spectrum activity (and in fact, the Communications Act specifically bars the FCC from doing so- for all the good that does.)

The argument that radio transmission "bears on" interstate commerce is facile. *Everything* bears on interstate commerce if you look hard enough: Wickard v Filburn was wrongly decided, and the Commerce Clause under that precedent has become the loophold that swallowed the entire Constitution. There is no human activity which cannot be argued to bear on interstate commerce in one way or another; if the founders had intended to give Congress authority to regulate all human activity, they could easily have done so much more explicitly.
12.25.2008 12:43pm
John Moore (www):
As an engineer who has worked in the technical and regulatory enforcement side of radio communications (broadcast radio/tv, data transmission, cellular, etc), I am amazed that nobody, including Lessig, recognizes the fundamental need fulfilled by the FCC.

Lessig's suggestion that "a need for stability" was the cause of FCC creation is an example of ideologically driven ignorance.

The FCC was created because limited bandwidth led to a "tragedy of the commons" situation in radio - one which the market would not and could not settle.

There is no non-regulatory way to achieve what the FCC does in certain areas (radio interference). None. Zero. Zip. Nada. This is true today no matter what technological fix you want to try - smart radio, UWB, or whatever.

Without FCC regulation, we simply would not have working broadcast systems, air traffic control systems, cellular systems, public safety radio, WiFi, or any of the other myriad modern uses of radio.

But... Lessig is right about one thing. The FCC, just like every other regulatory agency (not to mention NASA, CIA, FDA, HHS, etc) needs to be re-booted. Not eliminated, but re-booted.

However, his idea of a "minimal intervention to maximize innovation" regulatory agency is oxymoronic. The Laws of Bureaucracy guarantee that any such agency will do as the FCC has done - expand responsibility and power and funding. The bureaucrats within the agency, the interests that are regulated (including non-profit ones), and politicians of all stripes will cause this.

The closest we have to his MIMI organization is NIST.

An example of both the good and the bad of FCC regulation can be seen in the US digital cellular phone system. In much of the world, the technical standards for cellular were set by fiat, which produced very nice interoperability (GSM especially).

In the US, the standards were simply of spectral efficiency, and the result was that two systems arose: TDMA and CDMA. TDMA was the world's choice, and that of the existing US telecom giants. CDMA was the brainchild of the found of Qualcomm, and proved to be technically much better. Only the open environment of the US allowed this to be shown , and the result was that subsequent systems went to CDMA (until even better technologies were perfected).

On the flip side, the lack of interoperability, and the greed of the cellular operators, led to a market driven consequence that is very anti-innovation: lack of interoperability, even with technically compatible phones. You cannot buy a phone for Sprint and then use it on AT&T. As a Verizon user, I can't use an I-Phone (grr, grrr, grrr). This is inexcusable and amazes the rest of the world.

This pathetic state of affairs cries out for regulation - for "cellular neutrality": The current market derived system is now substantially reducing innovation!

Thus one must look beyond ideology and see both the costs and benefits of regulations in areas that are naturally in the FCC's area of focus.
12.25.2008 11:34pm
Baelln1:
" The FCC was created because limited bandwidth led to a "tragedy of the commons" situation in radio - one which the market would not and could not settle " {-- John Moore}

______________

American radio frequency airwaves were originally open & free to everyone, mostly used for wireless telegraphy. But the U.S. Navy sought control of those 'waves' -- The Radio Act of 1912 blatantly seized half the useable spectrum for the government/military. Private stations could use the rest only with a Federal license from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Radio voice broadcasts began in 1920 with 576 licensed stations.

By 1922, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover started "coordinating" with established major broadcasters to 'restrict' new licenses... claiming the need to prevent interference among broadcasters. He also assumed authority to dictate radio broadcast times, frequencies and geographic locations. By 1925 he and the major broadcasters advocated a "public interest" standard for licensing --and then stopped issuing any licenses at all, claiming the frequency spectrum was full. Legal battles ensued.

But special interests triumphed with the 'Radio Act of 1927' establishing the Federal Radio Commission bureaucracy (...now the FCC). Airwaves were declared public property under Commission control... which issued 'temporary' licenses only to those willing to broadcast "in the public interest" -- exactly as the dominant major radio broadcasters had wanted in restricting competition
______

"One of our troubles in getting legislation {...to nationalize the airwaves} was the very success of the voluntary {private} system.... Members of the Congressional committees kept saying, 'it is working well, so why bother?'"

{-- Memoirs of Herbert Hoover, 1952}

:::
12.26.2008 10:36am
John Moore (www):
@Baelin1

Broadcasting is only a small part of spectrum use, even then, as shown by Navy interest. Even so, your quotations only show one side of the situation.

I'm sure that the private folks who came to dominate through monopolistic tactics and the use of excessive power and jamming proclaimed it successful. The listeners found it otherwise, as they had to content with jamming, heterodynes and unintentional interference. Other possible innovate uses of spectrum pioneered by hobbyists (usually "ham" operators) would have been "stepped on" by the high powered stations.

Much more recently, Citizens Band demonstrated the effects of lack of adequate regulation. The FCC simply didn't bother to enforce their regulations (not enough money for a service with no big money interests), and the result was and remains chaos on those frequencies. Fortunately, FCC regulation prevents that choas from extending outside of that small jungle.

It is a technical fact that bandwidth is finite, and the most useful bandwidth more limited. Modern technologies allow bandwidth to be divided by area (e.g. cellular systems), but that requires even more regulation and standards. Furthermore, the many different uses of bandwidth have radically different characteristics, and standardization backed by enforce regulations is required to accomodate those different uses. For example, Wifi would vanish over a wide area if someone put up a high powered TV transmitter on 2.4 GHz.

When it comes to technology, the FCC has made a lot of very good choices - surprisingly good for a government agency. Those choices have enabld lots of innovation that would not have happened in a rapidly monopolized commons environment.
12.26.2008 2:55pm
pintler:

As far as the IP protection that Microsoft receives:
Are you saying there should be no such protection? Or are you saying that in return for such protection, Microsoft should give to the government such a degree of control over it that the government gets to decide -- for example -- exactly what should be bundled as part of an operating system?

I think we need IP laws in spite of the fact that they violate property rights, and getting the balance right is the difficult part. I'm not convinced that we need antitrust legislation at all.


IMHO, the Microsoft antitrust disputes were resolved in a way that was good for Microsoft but bad for the public - lots of expensive litigation, no real change in behavior. As a contrast, the earlier IBM antitrust suit was a little bit bad for IBM and a big win for the public. It really seemed like IBM actually got into the spirit of the consent decree, stopped its predatory practices, and became a good corporate citizen - so there is one example of the system working correctly.
12.27.2008 10:46am

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