Randy Picker Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee Hearing on Digital Books

Expert testimony available as video and PDF
Law School Office of Communications
September 11, 2009

Yesterday, Randy Picker testified before the House Judiciary Committee. An excerpt from his remarks is reprinted below, and you may download a PDF of the entirety of his remarks or watch a video of the hearing at the Commiteee website.

Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee
Competition and Commerce in Digital Books
September 10, 2009

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

Thank you for the invitation to testify today on competition and commerce issues in digital books. My name is Randal C. Picker. I am the Paul and Theo Leffmann Professor of Commercial Law at the University of Chicago Law School. I am also a Senior Fellow at the Computation Institute of The University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. I have taught at Chicago since 1989 and write and teach in a number of areas including, of relevance to today’s hearing, antitrust, copyright and network industries.

Faculty offices at the University of Chicago Law School are physically in the D’Angelo Law Library. I walk out of my office door into book stacks and I feel very lucky to have ready access to one of the world’s great university libraries. Yet notwithstanding that, I have an almost unnatural level of affection for Google Book Search. If you haven’t used it, you should, as it is a wonder. I have been doing research into some business practices in the early 1900s. Google Book Search is a powerful window into the past and one that I can look through from any computer anywhere.

And, again, I say that as someone who has a great library literally outside his office door. Imagine what that access means for people who are less fortunate.

But creating a great new product doesn’t somehow entitle a firm to a broad exemption from the law of the land. We wouldn’t consider for an instant allowing Google or any other firm to violate environmental laws or civil rights laws merely because they were creating a great new product. You have to do both: innovate and comply with the law. More precisely here, the fact that Google Book Search generates substantial benefits to consumers does not somehow insulate the Google Book Search settlement from antitrust inquiry. We should expect antitrust officials to assess whether those benefits can be preserved while at the same time minimizing any possible anticompetitive features of the settlement. Antitrust officials do not and should not allow firms to engage in anti-competitive practices merely because those practices have been bundled into a larger project that has substantial competitive benefits. Antitrust regulators need to separate the pro-competitive wheat from the anti-competitive chaff.

Randal C. Picker