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Microsoft vs The Justice Department: Playing Monopoly

Distributed by Films for the Humanities and Sciences, PO Box 2053, Princeton, NJ 08543-2053
Produced by News Hour with Jim Leherer
Director n/a
VHS, color, 49 min.
College - Adult
Law, Computer Science

Reviewed by Gary J. Bravy, Media/Reference Librarian, Georgetown University Law Center Library


This video, which is actually a segment of News Hour with Jim Leherer, discusses the US v. Microsoft case (currently pending in the Federal District Court of Washington. D.C. as of the writing of this review). The segment aired before the case actually came to court.

The case against Microsoft is built on Antitrust law, a notoriously difficult area of the law. The program fairly clearly (if simplistically as indeed it must) maps out some of the underlying principles of antitrust law on which the case is based and explains the "bad acts" concept as related to monopoly law. It also has very interesting comments from both Microsoft and Netscape, as well as from other important computer industry persons and from the Justice Department. The program highlights the "browser war" between Netscape and Microsoft, but also takes note of the broader issues involved, particularly access to the Internet. The treatment is well balanced, though an occasional anti-Microsoft bias seems to creep in, as when Netscape's Internet browser software is described as "super" or a Microsoft vice-president is shown exhorting his "troops" and shouting "these guys can be taken" (Netscape, perhaps?). An interesting coda scrolls at the end of the program noting that the case has gone to trial, and also that the pending merger of America On-Line and Netscape has perhaps changed the balance of the industry and casts some doubt on the outcome of the case.

One wonders about the audience for this program. It is already out of date, as the program's coda makes clear, and while listening to some of the industry's major players expound is certainly interesting a student doing a paper on this issue would probably be much better served by other material. The video could possibly be useful as an introduction to the issues presented but even at the secondary level other sources would need to be consulted to be both current and to fully explore the issue. However, for libraries which support large computer and information science programs, the video could be an interesting acquisition for an informed audience, and could be even more useful a few years from now when the case is finally decided. The video can only be recommended with the limitations noted. Technical quality of the video is adequate; the review copy showed occasional flicker.