Is Silicon Valley Really “Above the Law”?

-By Griffin Addison | [email protected]

Lawmakers seem to think that Silicon Valley is a “wild child” and is under the impression that they can do whatever they want above the laws and regulations that are in place. This was the tone from lawyers as perceived by the media. For example when antitrust attorney William Markham was interviewed by Bloomberg (1) in 2014 in which Apple won a case in less than 3 hours about iPod anti-trust simply shows that the original lawsuit was needlessly complicated and not valid, especially for $1 billion. The take from this interview? That Apple and other Silicon Valley companies can do whatever they want and don’t care about laws. However Apple won the case, showing that it was within the law the entire time. Each case is different and cannot be generalized and targeted at Silicon Valley. However, it can be easily explained why Silicon Valley companies may be perceived as more reckless than others.

The statement that Silicon Valley companies “seem to think that they are immune to anti-trust laws” is a very broad statement, but may be true in some cases such as the e-book case that Apple fought in 2012. However Silicon Valley’s goal is to think outside the box and to not be bound by old rules that may need to be changed as the time and surrounding technology changes. For instance, Uber having issues with taxi companies which hold a monopoly, is the anti-anti-trust of transportation. Taxi’s are not used to competition and thus Uber’s disruptive app/marketing/ideas/network is taking them by storm leaving them no choice but to fight back to survive. However this introduces new competition which is positive for consumers. Over the long term, the market will decide whether or not to accept Uber or a similar service (given all of Uber's other problems). It seems that many consumers have already made that decision.

Another example of “reckless” Silicon Valley companies is Tesla, which aims to sell cars directly to consumers. Of course this isn’t allowed due to old rules designed to protect the monopolistic nature of old fashioned car companies. But Tesla is introducing competition, more choices, and viable alternatives for customers - and in the end, it will be the customer who chooses since the customer is always right. Over the long term, the laws will have to be changed as the market will decide what consumers can or can’t purchase, not some reckless anti-anti-trust laws.

If lawyers, law makers, antitrust regulators, etc, are concerned with Silicon Valley’s different way of thinking, they will continue to be upset until they change their minds, since Silicon Valley is designed to invent, disrupt, innovate, advance technology, and henceforth advance the laws and regulation that are put in place around the changing technology. Having a firm stance and heels dug in to entrenched laws, may not work against Silicon Valley’s drive and persistent. While they are not immune to laws, they have certainly played a role in changing them overtime to suit the changing needs of technology, business, and consumers. From the outside, we may view them as reckless, but Silicon Valley companies view themselves as innovative thinkers who won’t be held down by certain ridiculous and outdated laws.

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