Last week, the Federal Trade Commission approved the merger between internet-giant Amazon and Whole Foods, the original organic grocer. You may be surprised how quickly the merger passed regulatory muster, especially given the public’s desire for strong antitrust enforcement to promote vigorous competition and equity in our economy, including our digital one. You may be wondering: Is this a case of weak enforcement? Is it proof that today’s antitrust doctrine is useless for digital-age companies? Or are critics of growing digital market concentration simply wrong to express concern? My guess is “none of the above.” Here’s why.
Today, the Department of Justice concluded its review of the antitrust consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI, the two largest music performance rights organizations (PROs) in the United States. After two years of extensive public comment and analysis, the Department has determined it would be inappropriate to amend the consent decrees in ways that would enable music publishers to take greater advantage of their market dominance in negotiating licenses. Additionally, it has clarified licensing practices that came to light during its review. Public Knowledge has advocated for the Department to adopt these positions throughout the review and welcomes the decision.