The federal government, under presidents of both parties, has largely surrendered to monopoly power. “The ‘anti’ in ‘antitrust’ has been discarded,” as the legal scholar Tim Wu puts it in his new book, “The Curse of Bigness.” Washington allows most megamergers to proceed either straight up or with only fig-leaf changes. The government has also done nothing to prevent the emergence of dominant new technology companies that mimic the old AT&T monopoly.
Last week, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers gave the green light (PDF) to sending a long-running antitrust lawsuit against Apple to trial. Plaintiffs in the case say that Apple used its FairPlay DRM system to “lock in” its customers and make it costly to switch to technology built by competitors, like Real Networks. They describe how Apple kept updating iTunes to make sure songs bought from Real’s competing digital music store couldn’t be used on iPods. As a result of this lock-in, Apple was able to overcharge its customers to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.