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TOTM The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is no stranger to undertaking controversial and potentially counterproductive regulatory projects. The commission’s digital-discrimination proceeding is expected to continue in November, and . . .
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is no stranger to undertaking controversial and potentially counterproductive regulatory projects. The commission’s digital-discrimination proceeding is expected to continue in November, and FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel just announced that the FCC will revive the warmed-over corpse of the 2015 Open Internet Order. This latter item highlights how the FCC’s Democratic majority has been emboldened to pursue risky regulatory adventures with the addition of recently confirmed Commissioner Anna Gomez.
But given that the FCC will already have a plate full of difficult docket items, it should continue to avoid a further landmine that some advocates have been pressing to take up this year: reopening former Chair Tom Wheeler’s proceeding on multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs). First proposed in late 2014 but ultimately not adopted by the commission, the Wheeler FCC’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) would bring over-the-top linear-video providers like YouTube TV and Hulu Live under the FCC’s program access and carriage rules.
Read the full piece here.
TOTM There is mounting evidence that both the Federal Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Justice Department’s (DOJ) Antitrust Division (DOJ) are, under their current leadership, hostile . . .
There is mounting evidence that both the Federal Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Justice Department’s (DOJ) Antitrust Division (DOJ) are, under their current leadership, hostile to mergers. There are multiple elements to this evidence.
TOTM My colleagues at the International Center for Law & Economics (ICLE) often engage not only in excellent analysis of proposed mergers and acquisitions, but also . . .
My colleagues at the International Center for Law & Economics (ICLE) often engage not only in excellent analysis of proposed mergers and acquisitions, but also have been known to offer retrospectives on past mergers. Today, I want to offer a very personal version of this.
TOTM With yet another win for NetChoice in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California—this time a preliminary injunction granted against California’s Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC)—it is . . .
With yet another win for NetChoice in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California—this time a preliminary injunction granted against California’s Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC)—it is worth asking what this means for the federally proposed Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and other laws of similar import that have been considered in a few states. I also thought it was worthwhile to contrast them with the duty-of-care proposal we at the International Center for Law & Economics have put forward, in terms of how best to protect children from harms associated with social media and other online platforms.
In this post, I will first consider the Bonta case, its analysis, and what it means going forward for KOSA. Next, I will explain how our duty-of-care proposal differs from KOSA and the AADC, and why it would, in select circumstances, open online platforms to intermediary liability where they are best placed to monitor and control harms to minors, by making it possible to bring products-liability suits. I will also outline a framework for considering how the First Amendment and the threat of collateral censorship interacts with such suits.
Popular Media Investors, customers, and employees are increasingly interested in evaluating firms’ environmental impact. This is good news. We are all better off when companies are accountable . . .
Investors, customers, and employees are increasingly interested in evaluating firms’ environmental impact. This is good news. We are all better off when companies are accountable for their actions. Seizing on this trend, the SEC has a pending proposal to mandate disclosure of companies’ carbon emissions and Governor Newsom has committed to signing a bill that does the same in California. This is bad news. Mandatory disclosures will do more harm than good.
TL;DR tl;dr Background: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 17 states this month filed a major antitrust complaint against Amazon. The much-anticipated suit comes more than . . .
Background: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 17 states this month filed a major antitrust complaint against Amazon. The much-anticipated suit comes more than two years after Lina Khan became FTC chair and more than six years since her student note criticizing Amazon’s practices. The complaint describes a broad scheme in which Amazon (1) used various practices to prevent sellers from offering prices at Amazon’s rivals below the level at Amazon (anti-discounting), and (2) conditioned a product’s eligibility for Amazon Prime on whether the seller used Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). This conduct allegedly violates Section 5 of the FTC Act as an unfair method of competition, Section 2 of the Sherman Act as maintenance of monopoly, and various state laws.
But… It will be difficult for the FTC and the states to prove Amazon’s monopoly power and to discredit the procompetitive justifications for the challenged conduct. Retail competition is robust and the proposed narrow markets are ripe for criticism. Moreover, the challenged conduct is core to Amazon’s offer of important consumer benefits, such as fast and reliable shipping. Whatever remedy the FTC ultimately pursues, it risks undermining the benefits Amazon has created for consumers and sellers alike.
The complaint relies on two overarching theories of anticompetitive conduct: anti-discounting and conditioning Prime eligibility on a seller using FBA.
The first is reminiscent of a challenge to “most-favored nation” (MFN) provisions, in which a defendant demands terms that are equivalent to or better than those given to its rivals. However, MFNs are agreements typically challenged under Section 1 of the Sherman Act; the FTC doesn’t explicitly claim that Amazon’s unilateral policy constitutes an MFN.
The second theory appears similar to a tying claim. But the FTC doesn’t allege an actual tie between the sale of two distinct products, perhaps because sellers cannot buy the Prime badge; they must qualify for it by meeting the two-day shipping requirement (which FBA ensures).
Both of the relevant markets put forward in the FTC’s complaint fail to reflect real-world competition.
Amazon allegedly possesses monopoly power in the “online superstore market.” According to the FTC, online “superstores” provide a unique breadth and depth of products and unique services that brick-and-mortar stores and smaller online retailers don’t. Thus the commission alleges that these rivals cannot constrain Amazon’s market power over consumers.
This alleged market is so narrowly drawn that it appears to include just Amazon, eBay, and the online stores offered by Walmart and Target. This excludes single-brand online retailers, product-category-specific online retailers, and all brick-and-mortar stores. It beggars belief that these rivals don’t exert competitive constraints on Amazon. After all, no consumers shop exclusively online, and price-comparison services like Google Shopping facilitate shopping across all online outlets. This will almost certainly prove to be a sticking point when the case goes to trial.
The FTC also defines a relevant market for “online marketplace services”—i.e., the services needed to sell products online (including access to shoppers, online interface, pricing capabilities, customer reviews). This excludes traditional wholesalers and e-commerce platforms like Shopify that offer software allowing sellers to create their own online stores.
As with the first market, it’s hard to imagine these claims will be borne out by the evidence. Most retail sales still occur offline and manufacturers and brands readily access these outlets. And the recent success of new marketplaces like Shein and Temu—which entered the U.S. market during the FTC’s investigation of Amazon—further undermines both the alleged market and Amazon’s market power.
While both unlawful MFNs and unlawful tying would be legitimate theories of harm, both are also vertical restrictions reviewed under the rule of reason, which requires weighing the anticompetitive and procompetitive effects.
The economics literature shows that MFNs can promote efficiency by protecting investments that couldn’t have been recouped without the protections offered by an MFN, such as Amazon’s substantial investment in the infrastructure to deliver products within two days. These provisions can benefit consumers by cutting their search costs and offering retailers incentives to improve the quality of their search and display capabilities.
Economic theory also suggests that it can be cheaper to offer some products together, rather than selling them separately; in some cases, it may be necessary to sell the products together in order to offer the products at all. If Amazon’s FBA services are critical for it to dependably deliver on Prime’s promise of two-day-shipping, then the alleged tying may be procompetitive.
While the FTC’s complaint doesn’t explicitly ask for Amazon to be broken up, it does ask for the court to provide “equitable relief, including but not limited to structural relief, necessary to restore fair competition.”
It’s anyone’s guess what this means. “Fair competition” isn’t part of U.S. antitrust case law or mainstream economic terminology.
This seemingly innocuous wording may be used to impose the FTC’s idiosyncratic—and nostalgic—vision of online retail on Amazon. Worse, it may be a euphemism for breaking up the company.
Written Testimonies & Filings Dear Chairman Sanders, Ranking Member Cassidy, Chairman Smith, and Ranking Member Neal: As former judges, former government officials, and scholars who are experts in patent . . .
Dear Chairman Sanders, Ranking Member Cassidy, Chairman Smith, and Ranking Member Neal:
As former judges, former government officials, and scholars who are experts in patent law, healthcare policy, or both, we write to express our concerns about lobbying efforts for the government to impose price controls on patented drugs. Some activists and academics have written to Congress and to agency officials arguing that existing laws are “tools” for the government to impose price controls on patented drugs to lower drug prices. Their arguments mischaracterize these statutes by inaccurately claiming that Congress has endorsed the imposition of price controls on patented drugs. It has not.
Drug pricing presents a multi-dimensional policy issue because the U.S. healthcare system comprises a complex, intermingled system of federal and state laws and regulations, as well as a myriad of equally complex and intermingled set of public and private institutions. Yet, activists and others inaccurately reduce the causes of drug prices to a single issue: patents. They argue that the federal government can “lower drug prices by breaking patent barriers,” and they claim that two statutes can be used to achieve this policy goal: the Bayh-Dole Act and 28 U.S.C. § 1498.
Neither the Bayh-Dole Act nor § 1498 are price-control statutes, and thus they do not authorize the federal government to impose price controls on patents. This is clear by their plain legal text, as well as by their consistent interpretation by courts and agencies. The Bayh-Dole Act promotes the commercialization of patented inventions that may result from government funding of research, and § 1498 secures patent-owners in obtaining compensation for unauthorized uses of their property rights by the government. Neither law says anything about drug prices. If the government used either law to impose price controls on patented drugs, this would conflict with the clear purpose of these statutes. It would also represent an unprecedented and fundamental change in U.S. patent law. From 1790 through the twentieth century, Congress rejected bills that would impose compulsory licensing on patents. The calls to use the Bayh-Dole Act or § 1498 for similar purposes fundamentally are at odds with these statutes and threaten to undermine the U.S. patent system’s historic success as a driver of U.S. global leadership in biopharmaceutical innovation.
This letter explains why neither the Bayh-Dole Act nor § 1498 can be used to break patents to impose price controls on drugs. First, it sets forth the proven success of the patent system as a driver of innovation in healthcare, which is the framework to evaluate the argument to “lower drug prices by breaking patent barriers.” This argument threatens to undermine the legal system that has saved lives and improved everyone’s quality of life. It then describes the Bayh-Dole Act and § 1498, explaining how neither authorizes price controls on patented drugs. The policy argument seeking to impose price controls on drugs contradicts the clear text and purpose of these statutes.
Read the full letter here.
 See Letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren from Amy Kapczynski, Aaron S. Kesselheim, et al., at 1 (Apr. 20, 2022), https://tinyurl.com/yt62wt4t. Professor Kapczynski and Professor Kesselheim are the co-authors of this letter, which is based on their articles, and thus this letter is identified as the “Kapczynski-Kesselheim Letter.”
 Id. at 8
 See, e.g., Bruce W. Bugbee, Genesis of American Patent and Copyright Law 143-44 (1967) (discussing the rejection of a Senate proposal for a compulsory licensing requirement in the bill that eventually became the Patent Act of 1790); Kali Murray, Constitutional Patent Law: Principles and Institutions, 93 Nebraska Law Review 901, 935-37 (2015) (discussing 1912 bill that imposed compulsory licensing on patent owners who are not manufacturing a patented invention, which received twenty-seven days of hearings, but was not enacted into law).
 Kapczynski-Kesselheim Letter, supra note 1, at 8.
Scholarship Abstract In 2014, I published a pair of articles—Administrative Antitrust and Chevron and the Limits of Administrative Antitrust—that argued that the Supreme Court’s recent antitrust . . .
In 2014, I published a pair of articles—Administrative Antitrust and Chevron and the Limits of Administrative
Antitrust—that argued that the Supreme Court’s recent antitrust and administrative law jurisprudence was pushing antitrust law out of the judicial domain and into the domain of regulatory agencies. The first article focused on the Court’s then-recent antitrust cases and argued that the Court, which had abrogated most areas of federal common law, had shown a clear preference for handling common law-like antitrust law on a statutory or regulatory basis where possible. The second article evaluated and rejected the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC’s”) long-held belief that its interpretations of the FTC Act do not receive Chevron deference. This Article will revisit those articles in light of the past decade of Supreme Court precedent. In reviewing those articles, this Article will argue that, for the same reasons that the Court seemed likely in 2013 to embrace an administrative approach to antitrust, today it is likely to view such approaches with great skepticism unless they are undertaken on a cautious and incrementalistic basis. That is, the Court will embrace an administrative approach to antitrust where it will prove less indeterminate than judicially defined antitrust law. If the FTC approaches antitrust law aggressively, decreasing the predictability of the law, the Court seems likely to close the door on administrative antitrust for reasons sounding in both administrative and antitrust law. This conclusion differs from other current work examining the Commission’s authority—such as on major questions grounds or whether the Commission has substantive “unfair methods of competition” rulemaking authority—in that it is primarily based on the Court’s views on the relationship of antitrust and administrative law.
TOTM Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Jessica Rosenworcel on Tuesday announced the agency’s proposal to regulate internet services under Title II of the Communications Act. Commonly referred . . .
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Jessica Rosenworcel on Tuesday announced the agency’s proposal to regulate internet services under Title II of the Communications Act. Commonly referred to as “net neutrality,” the chair plans to release proposed rules today, with a vote scheduled for Oct. 19 to begin the rulemaking process.