[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

TAP Motion in Thomson West Merger

                         UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
                        FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
  In the matter of:                )
  United States of America         )
       1401 H Street, NW           )
       Suite 4000                  )
  Washington, DC  20530            )
  State of California              )
  State of Connecticut             )
  State of Illinois                )
  Commonwealth of Massachusetts    )
  State of New York                )  Civil No. 96-1415 (PLF)  
  State of Washington              )
  State of Wisconsin               )
                      Plaintiffs,  )
  v.                               )
  The Thomson Corporation, and     )
  West Publishing Company          ) 
       Defendant.                  )
        The Taxpayer Assets Project (TAP) respectfully 
  requests that the court reconsider its denial of TAP's 
  motion to participate in the above captioned proceeding as 
  amicus curiae.   The Department of Justice (DOJ) noted in 
  its opposition to TAP's motion that the purpose of a Tunney 
  Act proceeding is to determine whether the proposed Final 
  Judgment in a government antitrust suit is in the public 
  interest. TAP is the one consumer interest that asked to 
  participate as amicus curiae, and the interests of consumers 
  are at least as important as the commercial publishers who 
  will participate in the proceedings.
        DOJ claimed that TAP's amicus participation is not 
  required to ensure that the Final Judgment is in the public 
  interest.  As this proceeding stands currently, two foreign-
  owned corporations that have long dominated the U.S. legal 
  publishing market, and which have somewhat parallel 
  interests, will be the primary participants, with DOJ as a 
        The only American owned publisher and the only small 
  business that was granted amicus status was Hyperlaw, and 
  only on a limited basis prohibiting any oral presentation at 
  the hearing.  This situation does little to satisfy the 
  requirements that the public interest be carefully 
  protected, since there have been long-standing complaints 
  that consumer and small business interests have been given 
  too little weight by government policy makers, not only at 
  the DOJ, but also within the Courts and the Congress.  
        The benefits of allowing TAP to participate as amicus 
  is potentially great, while the burden the court must suffer 
  in order to accomplish this is negligible at best.  TAP will 
  be able to provide a valuable contrast to all the other 
  participants as a non-profit organization dedicated solely 
  to serving the public interest. 
        According to DOJ, TAP's views (and those of the other 
  groups petitioning for amicus status) can be given "full and 
  appropriate consideration" through review of its "extensive 
  comments."  This approach, however, is an inferior 
  substitute for amicus participation.  The court will be 
  deprived of valuable information and based upon DOJ's 
  filing, Plaintiff's Response to Public Comments, several 
  issues have been misstated and would benefit from 
  clarification by amicus participants:
  -    DOJ states (page 50) that the requirement that Thomson
       approve any license agreement "appears unrelated to the 
       acquisition."  This bears directly on whether the Final 
       Settlement is in the public interest and DOJ is clearly 
       mistaken in claiming that the method for securing a 
       license is unrelated to the acquisition.  Under this 
       approach Thomson is free to object to the form (i.e., 
       electronic) as well as the content of the agreement.  
       Providing so much leverage to Thomson, which has a 
       tremendous incentive to undermine on-line access, is 
       contrary to the public interest and should be remedied 
       before the Final Judgment is approved. 
  -    DOJ is also off the mark in claiming (page 44) that in 
       the enhanced primary law markets "the text of opinions 
       is not difficult to obtain."  Building upon this false 
       assumption, DOJ claims that a text copyright is not a 
       necessary element of the Final Judgment.  This is 
       directly contrary to the information submitted by those 
       who are in the best position to know:  the small, 
       independent legal publishers.  It is also a strange  
       position DOJ take after DOJ was forced to lay-off 27 
       employees from its JURIS program after West Publishing 
       refused to renew its contract as a supplier of the text 
       of cases, and DOJ couldn't find an alternative supplier 
      for the materials, and after DOJ has opposed efforts by 
      citizens to obtain copies of court decisions collected 
      by the Air Force that were typed into a government 
      database from the West reporters, due to West copyright 
      assertions on the text of federal judicial opinions that 
      are published in its reporters.
  -   DOJ also claims that it has no information indicating 
      that Thomson was a potential competitor in this area of 
      collection of primary source materials, and that the 
      Final Judgment will not make getting cases any harder.  
      This misstates the situation because Thomson was the 
      most likely competitor and had made significant efforts 
      towards completing a case law archive. DOJ is aware that 
      Thomson had been an active in efforts to reform court 
      practices in the dissemination of legal information, 
      before it decided to purchase West, in copyright 
      litigation and efforts at legislative reform.  The 
      Merger will eliminate a powerful force for reform in 
      this market.
  Wherefore, the Taxpayer Assets Project respectfully requests 
  that in the interest of justice and the protection of the 
  public interest it be permitted to participate in the above 
  captioned proceeding as amicus curiae.  
                    James Love
                    Taxpayer Assets Project
                    Washington, DC  20036
                    (202) 387-8030
  James Love / love@tap.org / P.O. Box 19367, Washington, DC 20036
  Voice: 202/387-8030; Fax 202/234-5176
  Center for Study of Responsive Law
     Consumer Project on Technology; http://www.essential.org/cpt
     Taxpayer Assets Project; http://www.tap.org