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WSJ: The Authors Guild Met With DOJ in August

5566452462_1313bfc915[1]It seems that earlier reports of Amazon crushing the will of the book industry have greatly exaggerated.

The WSJ reported Wednesday night that members of The Authors Guild met with the US Dept of Justice in August to complain about Amazon:

The Authors Guild, the country’s largest advocacy group for writers, met with Justice Department officials in early August, people familiar with the matter said. The Guild, which has more than 8,500 members, raised concerns that Amazon is violating antitrust law as it puts pressure on Hachette Book Group in a dispute over revenue from e-books.

The meeting took place after the Authors Guild emailed Bill Baer, head of the antitrust division of the Justice Department, requesting that the department open an investigation into Amazon, one of the people said.

One person who attended the meeting said Justice Department lawyers listened attentively, but said this wasn’t an indication of whether the government would launch such a probe. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

I don’t know about you, but I am especially amused to read about that meeting considering that The Authors Guild, in its appeal of the Google Books ruling, called out Amazon as one of the parties harmed by said ruling.

There’s no word at this time what was discussed, just that The AG claimed that Amazon was violating US antitrust law.

I have trouble picturing how that could be the case; current antitrust law is focused on increasing competition, particularly at the consumer end. Amazon is dedicated to competing aggressively to keep prices low, so it would require a novel interpretation of antitrust law to prosecute Amazon.

And that goes double when you consider that Walmart, which is about 6 times Amazon’s size, has an even greater impact on far more than just the book industry. Walmart is well-known for using tactics similar to Amazon’s, and yet this retailer has not been prosecuted for antitrust violations. Something tells me Amazon won’t be prosecuted either.

But one detail I found especially interesting from the WSJ report was that Douglas Preston was reportedly at the meeting with the DOJ. He’s on The AG’s Council which means he is privy to just about everything that The AG has said to the Dept of Justice.

Douglas Preston is also the head of Authors United, which as you might recall recently announced that it was going to be sending a letter to the DOJ, asking that Amazon be investigated for antitrust violations.

That letter is still being crafted, and once complete it will be sent out to AU members for review (I believe this is called litigation by committee). Something tells me that Preston already knows just how much impact the letter will have.

I for one look forward to reading it.

image  by @jbtaylor

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