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US Justice Department Eyeing Corbis?

5 October 2000 - EPUK

CBS News has reported that US Justice Department officials are asking “serious questions” about how the acquisition of stock photo agencies by Corbis and another conglomerate (we assume they mean Getty) is affecting competition.

Describing Corbis owner Bill Gates as an “alleged monopolist”, CBS points out that the takeover by the two behemoths of dozens of independent companies has led to the G-Men developing a “stranglehold” on the photo market.

It now looks like the Justice Department, fresh from their court-room victory over Microsoft, are concerned about the behaviour of Bill Gates’ “other company”.

Corbis president Steve Davis dismissed the allegations, claiming that Gates “in no way runs the day-to-day operations”. This defence will sound strangely familiar to long term observers of Gates and Microsoft. During the landmark anti-trust trial, which has led to a ruling that Microsoft be broken up, similar claims were made about the relationship between Gates and the software company of which he is chairman.

The Justice Department case, however, is not the only legal reversal Microsoft have suffered of late. On September 1 US District Judge Janet Hall ordered the software giant to pay $1m damages to a small Connecticut software company against whom Microsoft had used “deceptive” business practices.

“Microsoft’s deceptive acts constitute affirmative acts of misconduct which were designed to injure those to whom they were directed, and wantonly risked serious injury, albeit of a purely economic nature,” Hall wrote.

In its suit, Bristol Technology Inc. claimed that Microsoft was trying to gain a foothold in the server and workstation markets and then kill off competition from the Unix operating systems in those markets.

Replace the words “Bristol Technology Inc.”, “Microsoft”, “server and workstation” and “Unix operating systems” with “Sygma photographers”, “Corbis”, “photo” and “independent agencies”, and the claims sound remarkably familiar.

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