订阅

多平台阅读

微信订阅

杂志

申请纸刊赠阅

订阅每日电邮

移动应用

专栏 - 苹果2_0

苹果败诉电子书反垄断案的5大因素

Philip Elmer-DeWitt 2016年03月13日

苹果(Apple)公司内部流传着一个老笑话,那就是史蒂夫·乔布斯周围是一片“现实扭曲力场”:你离他太近的话,就会相信他所说的话。苹果的数百万用户中已经有不少成了该公司的“信徒”,而很多苹果投资者也赚得盆满钵满。不过,Elmer-DeWitt认为,在报道苹果公司时有点怀疑精神不是坏事。听他的应该没错。要知道,他自从1982年就开始报道苹果、观察史蒂夫·乔布斯经营该公司。
这是一起棘手的案件——苹果提出了一些犀利的问题,质疑如何将19世纪的反垄断法用于21世纪的数字市场。很遗憾,最高法院拒绝听取质疑。

最近,美国最高法院宣布维持美国司法部指控苹果垄断电子书价格的原判。

我不是律师,也不是最高法院的专家,更不是苹果公司的内部人士,作为一个从一审到上诉审判期间一直坐在旁听席的观众,我有以下三个结论:

这是一起棘手的案件——苹果提出了一些犀利的问题,质疑如何将19世纪的反垄断法用于21世纪的数字市场。很遗憾,最高法院拒绝听取质疑。

我怀疑最高法院大法官安东宁•斯卡利亚缺席也是一个原因。斯卡利亚大法官去世后,剩下那些人会不会不太愿意处理其他棘手案件,比如苹果与美国联邦调查局(FBI)争执不下的iPhone解锁案?

如果真是如此,苹果互联网软件和服务的高级副总艾迪•库伊面临的处境就不太妙了。

否则,现在的情况就与我三年前写的完全一致。当时,美国曼哈顿地区法院法官丹尼斯•考特做出了苹果违反反垄断法的判决。我以为地方法院法官对苹果的看法会有所改变,没想到料错了。

以下是我2013年7月记下的审判旁观记录:

法庭里的椅子真硬,冷气也开得太大。做这种报道任务艰巨(没有Wi-Fi,不能带手机,不能用笔记本电脑)。可是,三周来上演的庭审大戏十分精彩,我很开心能成为观看审判全过程的少数记者之一。

我原认为已经很了解美国司法部以电子书价格违反反垄断法起诉苹果的案件。据我所知,曾做过检察官的考特法官已经深入调查,有不利于被告的倾向。她在审判前听证时基本已经表现出来了。

但我认为苹果做出了强有力的辩护。美国作家协会和至少一位美国参议员都表示,政府搞错了起诉对象,我也同意。审判期间有很多地方都让我觉得,法官对苹果的看法正在改变。

在通读考特法官160页的审判意见后,我发现自己的看法并不准确。在这份意见中,考特法官质疑苹果一方关键证人的可信度,嘲笑苹果的合法辩护,断然做出苹果败诉的判决。

我怎么错得这么离谱?经过事后分析,我找到以下受误导的多个因素:

亚马逊因素:在我看来,本案的背景是亚马逊对电子书市场形成垄断,9.99美元的定价极有杀伤力,对苹果、美国最大实体书店巴诺书店等其他对手来说,要进入市场出售电子书一定会亏损。但正如许多读者指出的,现实是苹果站在被告席,不是亚马逊。

出版因素:作为图书出版业的从业者,我很清楚这一行的工资有多低、利润有多微薄、经营畅销书可能有多大的风险。考特法官也许是一位热心读者(她在之前一次电子书判决中还引用了美国女诗人艾米莉•狄金森的一首诗),可她在审理本案时坚信出版商串通一气上调电子书的价格,苹果也在当中推波助澜。要不然为什么出版商一致同意在法官监督下进行和解?

库伊的因素:可能我容易受到经验丰富的谈判者误导,但我发现,由“苹果之父”乔布斯指定负责电子书业务的高管艾迪•库伊,实际上是一位特别可信的证人。可惜考特法官不相信他,还在一系列语气尖刻的注脚中毫不掩饰地表现出来。比如,在第47处,她的评语这样写道:“库伊否认此前知道麦克米伦出版集团首席执行官萨根特拜访过亚马逊,真是厚颜无耻。”

律师因素:政府一方的律师固然足够称职,和苹果的辩护团队比起来仍显得迟缓笨拙。苹果的辩护团队根据近期最高法院的判决巧妙地组织了辩词,让我感到信服,但显然并没有说服法官。苹果的辩护律师喜欢在幕后私下谈论,用尽办法把案子扭转到有利他们的方向,这点对我客观看待案件有点影响。在我的记录中,只有一处提到原告政府方律师的评论,我还拼错了那位律师的名字。

法律因素:我不是律师。即便我是,反垄断法也是专业人士才能理解的“另类”,而且反垄断法专家之前还经常有争议。在我看来,如果是竞争对手为确定价格达成同业协议,那和垂直市场的企业为进入领域磋商协议有根本区别。我还认为,强迫企业转换商业模式和拟定合同让企业有强烈力动机转变模式也有本质不同。这两点考特法官都不同意。上诉法院可能看问题角度不同(实际上,他们也以2比1的投票结果判定苹果败诉。)

案子到了这份上,我到底知道什么呢?(财富中文网)

译者:Pessy

审校:夏林

The Supreme Court today punted on the e-book case, U.S.A. v. Apple.

I’m not a lawyer, an expert on the Supreme Court, or an Apple insider. But I sat through the original trial and the appeal, and I have three final thoughts:

This was tricky case—one raising tough questions about how to apply 19th century antitrust laws to 21st century digital markets. I’m sorry the court declined to hear it.

I wonder whether Judge Scalia’s absence was a factor. Will the rump Court be less inclined to sink its teeth into other tricky cases, like Apple vs. FBI?

This doesn’t help Eddy Cue.

Otherwise, I have nothing add to what I wrote nearly three years ago when U.S. District Judge Denise Cote issued her ruling. I thought the district court judge was coming around to Apple’s point of view. I was wrong.

Here’s that story, from July 2013:

The benches were hard. The courtroom was over-cooled. The reporting challenges were daunting (no Wi-Fi, no cellphones, no laptops). But the drama that unfolded over three weeks of testimony was compelling, and I was happy to be one of a handful of reporters who sat through the whole thing.

I thought I had a good handle on Apple vs. United States, a.k.a. the e-book antitrust case. I knew Judge Cote—a former prosecutor—had gone into the trial predisposed against the defendant. She said as muchin a pre-trial hearing.

But I thought Apple AAPL -1.14% had put forward a strong defense. Like the Author’s Guild and at least one U.S. Senator, I thought the government was prosecuting the wrong company. At several points during the trial, I thought the judge was coming around to Apple’s point of view.

Having read Judge Cote’s 160-page opinion, in which she questioned the credibility of Apple’s key witness, ridiculed its legal defense, and ruled decisively against the company, I see that my view from the benches wasn’t so good after all.

How could I have been so wrong? In my post-game analysis, I see several factors that led me astray.

The Amazon factor: The context of the case, as I saw it, was Amazon’smonopoly control of the e-book market and the predatory $9.99 pricing rendering it impossible for Apple, Barnes & Noble, or anyone else to enter the market without selling its own e-books at a loss. But as many readers have correctly pointed out, Apple was on trial, not Amazon.

The publishing factor: Having worked in book publishing, I know how low the wages are, how thin the margins are, and what a crapshoot the bestseller game can be. Judge Cote may be an avid reader (she quoted an Emily Dickinson poem in an earlier e-book decision), but she came into the trial convinced that the publishers had colluded to raise the price of e-books and saw Apple’s role in that framework. Otherwise, why would they have agreed to the settlements she supervised?

The Cue factor: I may be a sucker for a skilled negotiator, but I found Eddy Cue—Steve Jobs’s point man in the e-book deals—to be an unusually credible witness. Judge Cote did not, as she makes clear in a series of acid footnotes. “Cue’s denial of prior knowledge of Sargent’s trip to Amazon,” she writes in No. 47, “was particularly brazen.”

The lawyering factor: The government’s lawyers, while competent, seemed plodding compared with Apple’s legal team, which wove complex legal arguments based on recent Supreme Court rulings that had me—but clearly not the judge—convinced. It didn’t help my objectivity that Apple’s lawyers were happy to talk on background, spinning the case their way. The only comment a government lawyer made was that in one of my stories, I’d misspelled his name.

The law: I am not a lawyer. Even if I were, antitrust law is a beast unto itself understood only by antitrust experts—and even they don’t agree among themselves. It seemed to me that there is fundamental difference between competitors forming a horizontal agreement to fix prices, and a vertical player negotiating deals to enter the business. It also seemed to me that there’s a difference between forcing companies to switch business models and writing a contract that creates a strong incentive for them to so. Judge Cote disagreed on both points. An appeals court may see things differently [in fact, they split 2-1 against Apple].

At this point, what do I know?

我来点评

最新文章:

中国煤业大迁徙

500强情报中心

财富专栏