⏩ How the U.S. whiffed on tech antitrust cases a decade ago
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This week: Leaked memos unveil the United States’ first big attempt at antitrust with Google and the NCAA Tournament has brought a couple legal questions to the fore. Plus, what is the legality of D.C. statehood?
🤐 Google’s secret memos show the United States’ long antitrust game
When people talk about the antitrust lawsuits against Google, they often talk about how the scrutiny on the tech giant has been coming for a long time. And we’re now seeing exactly how long the U.S. government has been thinking about this.
Newly released documents, obtained by Politico, reveal the Feds thought about making these same moves during an investigation that began around 2011. They missed the boat on an antitrust suit by making wildly wrong predictions.
The Feds saw the potential for concentrated Google power: They were investigating similar things the government is now, specifically Google wielding influence to secure favored positions for search and then using that dominance to promote its favored search results.
But in 2011 this didn’t seem like a huge deal: The leaked memos show the U.S. government didn’t think mobile would take off. It believed internet users would mainly search on desktop browsers rather than on the smartphones and tablets where almost every search is conducted via Google. The government also thought Microsoft and other tech companies would create a smartphone operating system to compete with Google and Apple.
Would anything be different if the U.S. acted back then?
Perhaps another tech company would have launched a mobile operating system. It’s possible Google would have stopped putting as much of its imprint on search results and influencing companies who relied on those results.
The same conflict hanging over today’s antitrust cases was raging back then. Investigators knew they would have a tough time proving any of Google’s advantages were harmful to consumers.
⛹️♀️ The legal questions at the heart of March Madness
Your bracket may be shot right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a fun discussion about law and the NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA is very serious about its copyrights for March Madness: Last month in a mind-boggling complaint, it went after a urology practice in Virginia for infringement. The practice had used the phrase “Vasectomy Mayhem” in ads telling men to get the surgery done so they could relax and watch basketball.
Hardly anyone gets away with using the NCAA’s trademarks: Even the women’s tournament. Although the copyright for March Madness extends to women’s basketball, the NCAA has denied requests from women’s tournament officials to use March Madness branding, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The slights to the women’s tournament didn’t end there
You may have seen a viral video showing female basketball players got a single rack of weights at their bubble while the men got a full weight room. Could this have been a Title IX violation?
Believe it or not, the NCAA does not actually have to comply with Title IX, based on a court ruling from a couple decades ago. The organization says it tries to abide by the legislation but evidently wasn’t trying very hard at the NCAA Tournament.
At least the basketball has been exciting!
🏢 DC statehood talks are picking up. Is it legal?
America may be getting a 51st state if hearings from this week to give Washington D.C. statehood bear fruit in the future. But can lawmakers even do this?
The question is constitutional: Opponents to statehood, largely Republicans, say the Constitution requires the seat of the federal government to be neutral.
Statehood advocates, largely Democrat, have an answer: They have proposed a resolution to separate the actual seat of government into a commonwealth separate from the city of D.C.
There are still Constitutional questions
Even if a resolution gets pulled off, Maryland may need to approve D.C. statehood separately, as it originally ceded land for the capital. And another Constitutional amendment, giving electors to D.C., would potentially need to be repealed.
The best chance any progress gets made on D.C. would involve another longshot change to established American tradition. Democrats likely need to get rid of the filibuster first.
💌 What else we’re forwarding
A bill of rights for remote workers: Some great suggestions for employers and employees to consider as WFH continues. Top rights include the ability to count on your company for tech support and for your company to provide quality WiFi as needed.
Team Biden reveals more ties to Big Tech: What do Biden admins have in common with Facebook, Microsoft and other major tech companies? Other than that they’ve promised to investigate them, they have spouses who work there.
See ya later today.