The Authors Guild has long expressed concerns about the impact of the internet monopolies on authors and other creators. Authors and the creative industries as a whole have undoubtedly benefited from new technologies provided by the major internet platforms, but at the same time have been the first to feel the brunt of a massive transfer of wealth from the creative sector to the internet sector.
The Guild and Authors United (which has now merged with the Guild) have studied and discussed with regulators over the last several years how the unregulated and unchecked growth of the major internet monopolies has squeezed the publishing and news industries, resulting in lower pay for authors and journalists. We have also fought against the epidemic of online piracy facilitated by certain internet platforms, which they have allowed to flourish despite having the means to control it. Under Reagan-era interpretations of antitrust laws, regulators have been disinclined to interfere as long as prices to consumers remain low.
Now, the Federal Trade Commission is finally starting to consider whether we need to take a fresh look at our competition laws. Starting this fall, the FTC will hold hearings on “Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.” As a foundation for the hearings and to better define the issues, the FTC requested public comments in response to a series of questions concerning the effectiveness of the current antitrust framework to competition and consumer welfare today.
Yesterday, the Guild filed its comments. They were authored by council member Jon Taplin, a vocal proponent of authors and creators, whose book Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy inspired a national conversation about the power of internet monopolies. The Guild’s comments point out problems with the current system and suggest certain modifications to the laws to curb monopolization of our means of commerce and communication. Among our proffered solutions, we ask the government to allow publishers, as well as self-published authors, to bargain collectively with the internet platforms, which would greatly increase their leverage, and to reform the notice and takedown provisions in the DMCA in a way that would hold internet platforms responsible for targeting piracy on their platforms.