New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who represents many of the estimated 50,000 or so New Yorkers employed by the publishing industry, has finally stirred himself to comment on the Department of Justice’s ebook pricing case. For now, he does so in a venue with no real consequences, penning an op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal. Schumer writes: “I am concerned that the mere filing of this lawsuit has empowered monopolists and hurt innovators. I believe it will have a deterrent effect not only on publishers but on other industries that are coming up with creative ways to grow and adapt to the Internet.” Calling the suit “unsettling from a broader perspective,” Schumer suggests that “as our economy transitions to digital platforms, we should be celebrating and supporting industries that find ways to adapt and grow. By developing a pricing model that made e-book sales work for them, publishers did just that.”
He criticizes the “administration” and says it “needs to reassess its prosecution priorities. Justice Department officials currently have comprehensive guidelines in place to determine when they should challenge mergers, but they have no such guidelines for non-merger investigations. It’s time to come up with some.”
If only Schumer had a position of influence, like, say, a seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights (where Richard Blumenthal, who instituted the Connecticut state investigation when he was running for the Senate also sits), maybe he could pursue this agenda beyond a newspaper column.
Schumer suggests that “the prospect that a single firm would control access to books should give any reader pause” and argues that “while consumers may have a short-term interest in today’s new release e-book prices, they have a more pressing long-term interest in the survival of the publishing industry.” Requests for comment from Schumer’s spokesperso on what additional plans the senator may have to act on his convictions via the Judiciary Committee, or through direct contact with the Attorney General or the Administration were not returned.