Tuesday, July 26, 2005

How to collude on pricing without violating antitrust laws -- or at least without prosecution

Hollywood's Death Spiral - The secret numbers tell the story. By Edward Jay Epstein

We know Major League Baseball can collude on prices -- but they have some bizarre exemption from antitrust law. I didn't realize, however, that Hollywood had its own de facto exemption:
Even though the studios do not provide a road map for outsiders to the precise sources of their wealth, the real numbers are available in Hollywood. Indeed, every 90 days, each major studio sends a precise breakdown of all its revenue from all its worldwide sources, including movie theaters, video distributors, and television stations, to a secretive unit of the Motion Picture Association called Worldwide Market Research, located in Encino, Calif. The unit combines the data into an All Media Revenue Report and sends it to a limited number of top executives. As the studios' trade organization, the MPA presumably can circulate such secret data without running afoul of antitrust laws.
Hollywood's exemption is probably a combination of clever lawyering and conventional corruption. The advantages of price fixing can be considerable. It would be interesting to see a table of seven or eight industry strategies to enable collusion.

Maybe we could clone Teddy Roosevelt?

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