Democracy Dies in Silicon Valley: Platform Antitrust and the Journalism Industry

Newspapers are classic examples of platforms. They are intermediaries between, and typically require participation from, two distinct groups: on the one hand, there are patrons eager to read the latest scoop; on the other hand, there are advertisers offering their goods and services on the outer edges of the paper in hopes of soliciting sales. More than mere examples of platform economics, however, newspapers and the media industry play an irreplaceable role in the functioning of our democracy by keeping us informed. From behemoths such as the Jeff Bezos–owned Washington Post to outlets like the Hungry Horse News in the small town of Columbia Falls, Montana, the press lets us know what is happening on both the national and local levels. However, the age of the Internet and the corresponding emergence of new two-sided platforms is decimating the media industry.[1] In a world where more users get their news on social media platforms like Facebook than in print,[2] the survival of quality journalism depends in large part on whether the media industry can tap into the flow of digital advertising revenue, the majority of which goes to just two corporations founded around the start of the new millennium.

Facebook and Google, formed respectively in 2004 and 1998, are new types of platforms aiming to accomplish what newspapers have done for centuries: attract a large consumer base and solicit revenue from advertisers. However, unlike the fungible papers newsies once distributed hot off the presses, Facebook and Google connect advertisers and consumers in a more sophisticated, yet opaque manner. Facebook and Google are free to consumers insofar as users do not pay with money to surf the web or connect virtually with their friends. Instead, the companies collect information about users based on their online activity, and complex algorithms connect those users with targeted advertisements.[3] This new method of connecting Internet users and advertisers has been wildly successful, creating a tech duopoly profiting from nearly sixty percent of all digital advertising spending in the United States.[4]

          [1].      Throughout this Note, I refer to the journalism industry also as the “media” industry and the “news media” industry. Although there are undoubtedly nuanced differences between journalism and news media, for the purposes of this Note, I draw no distinction between them.

          [2].      Elisa Shearer, Social Media Outpaces Print Newspapers in the U.S. as a News Source, Pew Rsch. Ctr. (Dec. 10, 2018), [].

          [3].      Although I may not be interested in an upcoming Black Friday deal for chainsaws posted in a physical publication of the Hungry Horse News, Facebook and Google are—based on my history and activity on the platforms—aware of my affinity for things like antitrust law and coffee, and so their algorithms are likely to present advertisements to me for items such as books written by Herbert Hovenkamp and expensive burr coffee grinders.

          [4].      Felix Richter, Amazon Challenges Ad Duopoly, Statista (Feb. 21, 2019), https:// [].

* Executive Senior Editor, Southern California Law Review, Volume 95; J.D. Candidate, 2022 University of Southern California, Gould School of Law. I would like to thank Professor Erik Hovenkamp for serving as my advisor. All mistakes are my own.

Life Story Rights Litigation: Negotiating for a Happy Ending

Filmmakers, television writers, and authors alike have made millions of dollars in the entertainment industry by telling stories that have already been lived by real people. Not only do these creative works force enormous public exposure upon the real people portrayed, but they often portray these real-life inspirations in inaccurate, or even harmful ways. Furthermore, without an agreement to sell their life story rights, many of these real-life inspirations receive no compensation from the use of their life story in these highly successful creative works.

* Senior Submissions Editor, Southern California Law Review, Volume 95; J.D. Candidate, 2022 University of Southern California, Gould School of Law; B.A. Communication 2017, University of Southern California. A huge thank you to the editors of the Southern California Law Review for all of your guidance throughout the publication process, and to all of my family and friends for their support throughout law school

Taxing Guns

Policymakers across the nation have recently adopted new taxes on guns. As expected, these policies are controversial. Supporters believe the taxes will increase the cost of weapons, decrease sales, and provide the revenue necessary to fund the costs of gun violence across America. Critics, by contrast, argue the taxes are nothing more than poll taxes and will drive the market for weapons underground.

Lost in the debate is the fact that gun taxes have been on the books for over a century. Congress adopted the first of such taxes during World War I to address the nation’s extraordinary wartime revenue needs. Since then, policymakers at every level of government have added more taxes, creating a capacious system of modern gun taxation in the process.

Despite the significance of guns in America and the increasing role that taxes play, no study has systematically analyzed the underlying reasons for and against the laws or, more importantly, offered a detailed framework for recognizing the rights and responsibilities of gun ownership. In this Article, we begin to fill this surprising gap in the extant literature. We review three theories of public finance and find that all provide useful ideas for improving our system of firearm taxation. We argue that one approach, however, provides the best framework for shaping gun tax policy in the future: the Pigouvian theory of taxation. We explain how and why legislators should pursue Pigouvian taxation, and we outline policies for improving the nation’s approach to taxing guns.

* Thomas Griffith is the John B. Milliken Professor Emeritus of Law and Taxation at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.

† Nancy Staudt is currently serving as the vice president of innovation at the RAND Corporation and the Frank & Marica Carlucci Dean at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The views, opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations contained herein are the author’s alone and not those of RAND, the Pardee RAND Graduate School, or its research sponsors, clients, or grantors. We would like to thank Lee Epstein, Mitu Gulati, Kim Krawiec, and participants in many workshops, including at Duke Law School, Florida International University College of Law, Missouri State University, and Washington University School of Law, for helpful comments and suggestions. We also thank Tara Katelyn for her excellent research assistance and Sara Hubaishi for her excellent “Bluebooking” skills.

Transgender Rights & the Eighth Amendment

The past decades have witnessed a dramatic shift in the visibility, acceptance, and integration of transgender people across all aspects of culture and the law. The treatment of incarcerated transgender people is no exception. Historically, transgender people have been routinely denied access to medically necessary hormone therapy, surgery, and other gender-affirming procedures; subjected to cross-gender strip searches; and housed according to their birth sex. But these policies and practices have begun to change. State departments of corrections are now providing some, though by no means all, appropriate care to transgender people, culminating in the Ninth Circuit’s historic decision in Edmo v. Corizon, Inc. in 2019—the first circuit-level case to require a state to provide transition surgery to an incarcerated transgender person. Other state departments of corrections will surely follow, as they must under the Eighth Amendment. These momentous changes, which coincide with a broader cultural turn away from transphobia and toward a collective understanding of transgender people, have been neither swift nor easy. But they trend in one direction: toward a recognition of the rights and dignity of transgender people.

* Jennifer L. Levi, Professor of Law, Western New England University Law School.

† Kevin M. Barry, Professor of Law, Quinnipiac University School of Law. Thanks to Shannon Minter for thoughtful advice; to the Southern California Law Review staff for editorial assistance; and to Lexie Farkash for research assistance.

Designing Supreme Court Term Limits

Since the Founding, Supreme Court Justices have enjoyed life tenure. This helps insulate the Justices from political pressures, but it also results in unpredictable deaths and strategic retirements determining the timing of Court vacancies. In order to regularize the appointments process, a number of academics and policymakers have put forward detailed term-limits proposals. However, many of these proposals have been silent on several key design decisions, and there has been almost no empirical work assessing the impact that term limits would have on the composition of the Supreme Court.

This Article provides a framework for designing a complete term-limits proposal and develops an empirical strategy to assess the effects of instituting term limits. The framework we introduce outlines the key design features that any term-limits proposal must make, including frequently overlooked decisions like what the default would be if there is Senate inaction on a president’s nominee. The empirical strategy we develop uses simulations to assess how term-limits proposals would have shaped the Court if they had been in place over the last eighty years of American history. These simulations enable comparative assessments of term-limits proposals relative to each other and to the historical status quo of life tenure. Using these simulations, we are able to isolate the design features of existing proposals that produce significant differences in the composition of the Supreme Court. For instance, proposals that commence appointing term-limited Justices immediately could complete the transition in just sixteen years, but proposals that wait until after the sitting Justices leave the Court to appoint term-limited Justices would take an average of fifty-two years to complete the transition. Our results also reveal that term limits are likely to produce dramatic changes in the ideological composition of the Court. Most significantly, the Supreme Court had extreme ideological imbalance for sixty percent of the time since President Franklin Roosevelt’s effort to pack the Court, but any of the major term-limits proposals would have reduced the amount of time with extreme imbalance by almost half.

          *     Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School. J.D. 2013, Ph.D. 2013, A.M. 2012, Harvard University. M.A., B.A. Yale University, 2007.

          †     Treiman Professor of Law, Washington University in St. Louis. J.D. Harvard University 2008, A.B. Duke University 2004.

          ‡     Associate Professor of Law, Washington University in St. Louis. Ph.D., 2015, Cornell University. J.D. 2011, Washington University. B.S.E. 2008, Grand Valley State University.                  

††         Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Ph.D. 2012, A.M. 2011, A.B. 2000, Harvard University. J.D. 2004, Stanford University. For helpful conversations and comments, we are grateful to Gabe Roth and participants at workshops at the University of Chicago Law School, Washington University School of Law, NYU Law School, and the American Law & Economics Association Annual Meeting.