Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Barak Orbach, Arizona offers The Paramount Decrees: Lessons for the Future.
ABSTRACT: There are some striking similarities between the tech giants of the 21st century and the powerful Hollywood studios in the second quarter of the 20th century. In their respective eras, each group of companies symbolized the acquisition of economic power by innovative firms and inspired calls to use antitrust law to break up large corporations, deconcentrate the economy, and protect small businesses.
In their pursuit of growth, each group of companies harnessed efficiencies and acted aggressively to exclude competition. The studios developed supply chains for mass production and mass distribution of entertainment products. Their success devastated less efficient entertainment industries, such as the “legitimate theater,” vaudevilles, and nickelodeons. They also acted to eliminate competition from rivals in the motion picture industry. The tech giants developed digital platforms, whose success devastated brick-and-mortar industries. They have also acted to eliminate competition from other tech companies.
The studios were the target of the most ambitious campaign to reform markets through antitrust enforcement. The story of this campaign could benefit contemporary debates about the future of antitrust law, including assessments of antitrust policy in periods of rapid technological change, vertical arrangements, conspiracy inference, divestitures, and behavioral remedies. This paper summarizes this episode in antitrust history and lessons that it offers.