Picker Talks to WaPo about Apple Antitrust Ruling
On Wednesday, Judge Denise Cote ruled that Apple had violated antitrust law by coordinating an effort among five leading publishers to raise e-book prices. Randal Picker is a professor of law at the University of Chicago and a leading antitrust scholar. We spoke by phone Wednesday afternoon. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Timothy B. Lee: Judge Denise Cote described Apple coordinating a price-fixing conspiracy among the major publishers. Do you think that’s a good way to think about the case?
Randal Picker: Judge Cote tells a good story about how Apple was a co-conspirator in what seems a crystal-clear conspiracy by the publishers. But I think the case is vastly more complicated than that.
There’s a simple story about publishers wanting to change prices and failing until the white knight appears in the form of Steve Jobs. But there’s a flip side to that. Apple would say: “we didn’t do anything here that we didn’t have an independent interest in doing, independent of whatever happened in e-book prices.
“We’ll run a platform. We don’t want to set prices. We wanted the same [30%] deal we do in the app store. We just don’t want to be at a competitive disadvantage when we sell e-books. If those books are at different prices, we’ve got a problem. We want to those prices to be the same.”
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