The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are "beginning to examine whether Apple's new media subscription service violates antitrust laws," Bloomberg News reports.
Maybe I am missing something, but on the face of it, this seems like a weak case for federal intervention. After all, there's plenty of competition — in addition to the Apple service, which reportedly charges publishers 30% of subscription revenues, there's Google's One Pass, which takes a reported 10% of subscription revenues. Press+, the service founded by Steven Brill, Gordon Crovitz, and Leo Hindery that is part-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, charges publishers a reported 20% of revenues. (The Wall Street Journal coverage of the Apple antitrust issue has studiously avoided mentioning Press+ or News Corp.'s investment in it.) A publisher can set up its own subscription service using PayPal for a low single digit percentage of revenues (that's what we use here at FutureOfCapitalism.com).
Perhaps one could spin a theory that because Apple is requiring the use of its service to sell subscriptions within Apps on the iPad, this is somehow an antitrust violation. But there are plenty of other non-iPad tablets out there, just as there are non-iPhone smartphones. If Apple's lawyers want, they could read the government lawyers a column by one of Apple's competitors, Mr. Crovitz: "The bottom line is that by the time regulators can assess a technology market, the market has often moved on....The antitrust laws are anachronisms when applied to industries of constant innovation." Of course, the government lawyers can read Apple's lawyers back what Apple said back when the antitrust folk were going after Microsoft. Then, Apple probably had a somewhat more positive view of antitrust enforcement than it does now.