EU Does What DOJ Will Not

Monday, 2007-September-17 at 22:02 4 comments

If anyone had any question about whether corporations owned our Department of Justice, today’s events should settle them.

Microsoft over the past several years has committed several violations of US and foreign antitrust laws. How do I know this? They have been found guilty repeatedly of illegal behavior. This is not just some kind of sour grapes reaction by competitors whose products were rejected in the market. This is detailed and documented by government prosecutors in this country and other countries.

Watching the corrupt tactics in trying to push OOXML through the ISO process, I can imagine that this anticompetitive behavior continues. As the recent NFL signals-taping episode illustrates, even those who may have gotten away with anticompetitive behavior in the past are facing new scrutiny today.

As Andy Updegrove records, the European Court of First Instance ruled against Microsoft in almost every part of the European antitrust case against Microsoft.

The DOJ, charged with enforcing the US antitrust laws that Microsoft was convicted of breaking, instead sides with Microsoft. If you favor free enterprise and competition, you must also favor strict and speedy intervention to stop those who abuse the system to suppress competition. Instead, DOJ is selling American consumers to large corporations for a song.

EU Business quotes Thomas Barnett, head of the Justice Deparment’s Antitrust Division:

“The decision is both lengthy and complex … It will therefore be some time before the full impact of today’s decision on antitrust policy in Europe will be apparent,” Barnett said in a statement.

“We are, however, concerned that the standard applied to unilateral conduct by the CFI, rather than helping consumers, may have the unfortunate consequence of harming consumers by chilling innovation and discouraging competition.”

Is that right? Did DOJ “protect competition” in the browser market when it reversed course after a new administration took over? Did DOJ “protect competition” in office suites? What about media players? Did DOJ “protect competition” there? I know, workgroup servers—that’s got to be the place where DOJ has “protected competition” against anticompetitive tactics by Microsoft. What? They haven’t done that either? What is it about that company (Microsoft) that gets our government to start playing footsie in the mens room? Just get a motel room, burn some hormones, and then do your job for once.

Isn’t it funny that every time there is an issue where a dominant corporation is facing some kind of constraints to “protect competition” that DOJ always comes down on the side of the corporation? Do you see DOJ standing up for consumers? I read the business section almost every day and I don’t see DOJ protecting consumers, which is the whole reason they should be “protecting competition.” Instead, it looks to me like DOJ is protecting the largest competitors in key markets (operating system software, office suite software, workgroup servers, telephones, Internet access, broadcasting, music, movies) and preventing either consumers or smaller competitors from slowing the growth of those largest competitors.

Let me clue you in, Mr. Barnett. there are plenty of “innovations” out there, but they generally come from smaller competitors, and are quickly buried by anticompetitive practices of the incumbents. A good example is Verizon’s crusade against Vonage and also Microsoft’s anti-Linux / anti-FLOSS / anti-ODF moves (including threats reminiscent of the scumbags at SCO). [Disclosure: I am (by accident of residence) a Verizon customer, but not a Vonage customer.] If your department was doing its job, we consumers would have more choices and options for broadband Internet access, but since DOJ opposes net neutrality, I guess we’ll never catch up with foreign nations.

And yes, James Robertson, this is ten years after the fact—this needed to happen no later than 2002, and best if it happened in the 1990s when the events began. It does not change the fact that the company’s anti-competitive behavior has changed the software landscape, crippling otherwise viable competitors and raising prices for consumers. It has given the company a kind of arrogance that I have never seen before in my lifetime. (Why else would they secretly push out their Genuine Disadvantage snoopware to all Windows computers, including government computers that might contain some secret information? Why else would they put anti-consumer TUR into their media player and operating system?)

I encourage you to read Andy’s take on the story, as well as James’s take and Sam’s take. I encourage you to read some economics books, so you will understand the issues at play here. Read about antitrust laws as well.

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[Reprint] Microsoft’s Ugly Daughter Whose Ox Gets Gored?


  • 1. denis bider  |  Thursday, 2007-September-20 at 11:22

    Yeah, you’re such a consumer of Microsoft products, it’s not even true. The DOJ needs to “protect” you, and by “protect” you I mean it needs to hurt Microsoft, because it would benefit all the other technologies you’re interested in. You’re clearly biased and are interested in Microsoft being hurt, whether this is the right thing or not, because hurting Microsoft and hobbling it would be advantageous to the technologies and programming environments you do like, which is the open source world and everything that has to do with GNU/Linux.

    Come on. You’re not even a customer of Microsoft. You’re not a customer out of principle. You just hate Microsoft because you feel it threatens what you like; because it is the antithesis of open source software and GNU/Linux.

    You don’t even have Microsoft’s customers best interests at heart when you are peddling your concern for the “consumers”. You would just like to see MS go down, for any reason, and see GNU/Linux succeed.


  • 2. lnxwalt  |  Thursday, 2007-September-20 at 12:19

    Denis, before you try to paint me as an “anything but Microsoft” person, you should know more about me. What do I use in my main employment? Microsoft products–I get to deal with things like users that can’t find how to set “out of the office” in Outlook 2003, because it hides anything you don’t use regularly. When I’m not at work, who is it that gets calls from all over Southern California to come fix some Windows problem? Are you the one who sets up WiFi and does spyware cleanup for everyone I know?

    I’m not a customer of Microsoft? What OS came preinstalled for every computer I’ve ever purchased? Either DOS or Windows. I am definitely a Microsoft customer.

    I have friends and relatives that spend up to $400 for an office suite that they use at home. Those are Microsoft customers that I am concerned for.

    By the way, a century of antitrust law is the issue. No one cares Edit: This is not specifically about Microsoft or Linux or whatever. In a century, all of them will be long gone, but the principles of the law must remain.

  • 3. Whose Ox Gets Gored? « Opportunity Knocks  |  Sunday, 2007-September-23 at 10:04

    […] recognize as antitrust laws) and given a fine approaching one billion dollars (600 million euros). I wrote about the US Department of Justice’s refusal to enforce similar laws in our country. We exchanged comments, in which Denis repeatedly charged that I do not use Windows, and that […]

  • 4. James Robertson  |  Friday, 2007-October-05 at 06:43

    You admit that government actions (US and EU) are very late – late enough to be useless. You fail to notice that the market is taking care of MS the same way that it handled IBM. MS has gotten big, fat, and stupid, and the Vista screwup is the first step in a long downhill run in front of the company. You can keep asking for useless, late, and ineffective (not to mention costly) government action, or you can just let time do its job.

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