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Hitachi-LG Fined $21M For Price-Fixing Optical Drives

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the hand-in-the-cookie-jar dept.

Crime 98

wiredmikey writes "Hitachi-LG Data Storage, a joint venture between Hitachi and LG Electronics, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $21.1 million criminal fine for its part in a scheme to rig bids and fix prices of optical disk drives. According to the Department of Justice, the company had conspired with others to rig the bidding process on optical disk drives sold to Dell, HP, and Microsoft. Court documents show that Dell and HP hosted optical disk drive procurement events in which bidders would be awarded varying amounts of optical disk drive supply depending on where their pricing ranked."

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Not Enough! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37592636)

and the (LG's) drives are utter shit failing in months after buying.
double guilty!

Re:Not Enough! (1)

vivian (156520) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593736)

The sooner optical disks drives go the way of the floppy, the better. The mechano-optical mechanism used in the damn things is just asking to break, and I have had to buy way too many drives over the years because of problems with them. Memory sticks and the internet can distribute anything that you might need to just as easily as a CD or DVD can. Software, music and movies should basically not be getting shipped on the damn things any more, so we can once and for all forget about having to build systems with optical drives without compromising the machine's utility.

Re:Not Enough! (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593972)

Yes, let's get rid of the last vestiges of our "ownership" of any kind of media.

Re:Not Enough! (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594110)

I've had my fair share of optical devices fail, apparently with age. Perhaps it's down to the way in which they were used (sequential rather than random access) but in every case it's been the laser diode wearing out. Symptoms are usually a failure to write first, followed by a failure to read DVD media. I've never held on to one long enough for it to reject CDs, pressed or otherwise. Affected models are two Panasonics (including one slimline slot-loader), one Creative (re-badged I expect), one Pioneer, two Lite-Ons and most recently the one in my 360, which I think may have been a BenQ.

But, as it's been said, the plural of anecdote is not data.

Re:Not Enough! (1)

vivian (156520) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594262)

I think it's more to do the optics going out of alignment or something like that, which is why it starts failing on DVDs first.

Re:Not Enough! (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595082)

In write-capable drives the first thing to go was the facility to write. In the two DVD-ROM drives I was able to extend - for a time - their lifespans with some tinkering with a little pot

Re:Not Enough! (0)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37596286)

As a guy that builds and repairs PCs I've found the average to be about two years and that is with several burns a week. Remember folks we are talking about something that is a whole $20 here, hell I've been seeing the nice slim DVD externals going for around $35, so who cares?

They are cheap folks, you use them until they die, then you chunk them. my first DVD burner lasted nearly 7 years, but it cost nearly $200. given the choice of 7 years for $189 or 2 years for $20? I'll take the 2 for $20 thanks.

Re:Not Enough! (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37602620)

Thanks for throwing your two cents in but regrettably I think you missed the point. The OP argues that the usual cause of failure is the mechano-optical system, by which I assumed he/she meant the laser positioning system. In my experience it's been the laser diode in most cases.

I'm quite aware of how much an optical drive costs, having bought a fair few to replace faulty ones, but I'm interested in how they fail. That's why I care. No-one mentioned cost before you came along.

Re:Not Enough! (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37607304)

I think YOU missed the point friend, which is a hearty WHO GIVES A FUCK how it fails? do you sit there scratching your head on why that 89c Bic pen died? fuck no! its a $20 cheapo Chinese POS, why would anyone give a wet fart about WHY it failed? they use cheap parts, cheap parts die, period. As I said I got 7 years out of my 4x $189 DVD burner, but who would want to pay nearly ten times the current cost for reliable optical systems? Nobody that's who.

So if you really want to sit around and have a 4 hour discussion on why something that costs less than a pizza and a 6 pack died? Knock yourself out buddy. Seems stupid as fuck to waste your time. Hell in the time it took to type this I made more money than the fricking burner cost!

Re:Not Enough! (1)

vivian (156520) | more than 2 years ago | (#37608218)

My main point is that the god-damned things are flakey and unreliable due to their complexity compared to a memory stick. Perhaps it's the laser that dies, perhaps it's the mechanical parts going out of alignment - perhaps it's just dust building up on the optics - I don't really care, I just know that CD/DVD players just generally suck - and not just PC ones. I have had several stand-alone DVD players die too, as well as a few old school boom boxes that work fine except for the broken CD player. (ie. tape, radio amp and speakers work)

In comparison, there's relatively little to go wrong with a USB port / memory stick.

GUILTY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37592646)

You mean there is actually someone (or something, must be careful about calling them people...) AT FAULT at the end of a justice department investigation?

Re:GUILTY? (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593292)

The surprise is not that there is criminal corporate behavior. The surprise is that the Department of Justice actually did their job and prosecuted it.

More like this, please. A lot more.

$20 is non-competitive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37592666)

Last I checked [pricewatch.com] you can get a DVD-RW for $19.98 and go Blu-ray for $10 more.

Re:$20 is non-competitive? (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37592954)

I doubt you have the Dell & HP price guides. You have no idea what they where charged and what they cost to make.

Re:$20 is non-competitive? (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595772)

So since they're OEM, without the overhead of retail sales and packaging, that means the prices are fixed at what, $15 per unit? God, and I thought Intel was bad at price-fixing!

Re:$20 is non-competitive? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593892)

Last I checked [pricewatch.com] you can get a DVD-RW for $19.98 and go Blu-ray for $10 more.

Wow, I see +$20, but yeah, that's worth it for my next drive purchase.

Is ripping all sorted out on linux at this point? I buy plenty of DVD's, but put them into storage once the data is safely on seekable storage. Might be time to step up to BluRay.

Re:$20 is non-competitive? (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594020)

Not really. The only ripping I've had that is pretty solid is AnyDVDHD, and that's Windows-only AFAIK.

Re:$20 is non-competitive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37595194)

Ripping works for both DVD and Blu-ray, but descrambling only works for DVD (and even then, it's against the law). You should pirate until they give you the keys to any discs you buy. Let someone else deal with the DRM hassles.

Wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594042)

More like $19 more. The cheapest Bluray drive on Pricewatch is $39.

Free Market capitalism (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37592668)

I thought the United States loved their free market capitalism? Where is the freedom here? Companies should be able to combine into cartels and push the consumers around, after all this is the will of the free market right?

Re:Free Market capitalism (-1, Troll)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 2 years ago | (#37592844)

Free market is about what's best for consumers... It isn't about no legislation at all, so much as being able to compete freely. IMHO this means less restrictive practices, so that emerging and distracting technologies can emerge and create new markets. This should also mean limiting copyright and patent protections, limiting the central government, and ensuring things like this emphatically do not happen.

Re:Free Market capitalism (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37592992)

Of course this doesn't happen in practice which is why we should have a communist state.

Re:Free Market capitalism (0)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593128)

Yeah, like that works in practice... Communism can't work as long as desire, and ambition are human characteristics.. i.e. never.

Re:Free Market capitalism (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593480)

So in that case why did Russia have a leader? Why did their army have a command structure? How did they get into space without desire and ambition. In other words, you don't know what you're talking about.

Re:Free Market capitalism (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593758)

Because Soviet Union was not a communist state. It never even claimed that it was one, in fact. It was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

shutdown -p now (807394), stop drooling and read: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594736)

You are just plain wrong in many ways. So wrong, that it is amazing your large intestine didn't detach itself and thrust through your torso to impact your brain stem at supersonic speeds. But let me address one point in particular, a point so simple it is hoped that even someone of your anti-intellect may be able to grasp it.

It was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

That is what it called itself, yes (more specifically, it called itself ÐоÑZÌÐ ÐоÐÐÌÑÑÐÐÑ... ÐоÑÐÐÐÐÑÑÐÌÑÐÑÐÐÑ... ÐÐÑÐÑfÌбÐÐÐ, but lets leave that detail aside). So what? In practice it was communist.

How do we know this? Well, for starters, it was a single party state ruled by the communist party. The economy was fully state managed, just like a communist state. Human freedom was substantially curtailed, just like a communist state.

Most importantly, like many communist states, it names itself something that doesn't include the word "communist." See Democratic People's Republic of Korea, People's Republic of China, and so forth.

Are you honestly so feeble-minded that you conclude that the Soviet Union wasn't communist because of it's name? The mountain of facts to the contrary notwithstanding? Seriously? Here is some advice: Give up on being a pseudo-intellectual and go get a job at McDonalds. At least pseudo-intellectuals sound smart. You can't even reach that level.

Re:shutdown -p now (807394), stop drooling and rea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594818)

Broken unicode! My well-laid plans are foiled again!

Re:shutdown -p now (807394), stop drooling and rea (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595086)

So what? In practice it was communist.

How do we know this? Well, for starters, it was a single party state ruled by the communist party. The economy was fully state managed, just like a communist state. Human freedom was substantially curtailed, just like a communist state.

Soviet Union was ruled by a Communist party, because the official goal of the state (which was "guided" by the Party) was to build communism - eventually. It was always some time in the future, just around the corner - usually in about 20-30 years or so.

However, the state itself was socialist, and that is how it always described it. That is precisely why it had government, courts, laws etc. It's also why it had money. "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his contribution" was the principle of the state - that is unabashed socialism; communism would be "to each according to his need".

Communism is defined as a classless, stateless, moneyless society. No country in the world ever reached that state. Most people believe that it is not a state that can be ever reached, or at least not until the scarcity problem is universally solved. Communists believed that the problem could be solved by breeding a new kind of people, and to do so they had established socialist states with "dictatorship of the proletariat" which were supposed to work towards that goal.

All traits that you list are either socialist (state-managed economy), or are completely orthogonal to the whole thing (single party, human rights etc) - socialism is an economic system, not a political one. It doesn't have to be democratic to be counted as socialism.

It's all Marxism-Leninism 101.

Western states have had their own peculiar definition of "communism", which was ill-defined, but in practice simply meant "USSR and all countries following the same model", and made no distinction between economic and political systems. Even if using that definition, the economic part of Soviet "communism" is still statist socialism.

Most importantly, like many communist states, it names itself something that doesn't include the word "communist." See Democratic People's Republic of Korea, People's Republic of China, and so forth.

That's because none of those countries were communist or even claimed to be such. All being Marxist, they all subscribed to the same basic principle - socialism today, communism tomorrow.

Well, DPRK and PRC not so much these days. But then DPRK has moved from Marxism to its own leader-as-a-God ideology, and PRC is not even socialist anymore, much less "communist".

Are you honestly so feeble-minded that you conclude that the Soviet Union wasn't communist because of it's name?

No, I conclude that Soviet Union wasn't communist because I actually know what "communism" means, and what the actual life in the USSR was (being born there and all kinda helps). The fact that it was also honest in not describing itself as communist is helpful, but it's not why it wasn't communist.

Oh! (1)

galanom (1021665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595410)

Oh, dear!
Being European, let me tell you how political beliefs are classified:
Those who call themselves "right-wingers", are actually far-right nationalists.
Those who call themselves "christian democrats" are actually neo-libertarians right-wingers.
Those who call themselves "socialists" or "social democrats" are actually right-wingers
Those who call themselves "left-wingers" are opportunistic parties, hoping to catch some votes here and there.
Those who call themselves "communists" are communists who want socialism.
Those who call themselves "revolutionaries" or "anarchists" or "anti-authoritarians" are radical left-wingers.

You might find it insane, but people like Dominique Strauss Kahn, who spent $3000 per day on his hotel at NY, are indeed called "socialists" in Europe.
I really don't know why.
When we say "socialism" here, it has NOTHING to do with Marxism-Lenninism or the socialism of the USSR or the Maoism of PRC.
We call that "communism" here.

Re:Oh! (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595604)

Being Russian (and I think you're mistaking me for an American), let me tell you that your nationality does not have anything to do with how the terms are properly defined.

Socialism as an economic system has a very simple definition: it's when ownership of the means of production is cooperatively held, normally by people who use them. In anarchist strains of socialism - anarcho-syndicalism etc - this is believed to be the natural state, where workers directly govern and run factories etc, with no state to maintain this order of things or coordinate production etc. I'm not aware of any existing implementations, but a good fictional description is given in Ursula Le Guin's "Dispossessed". In statist strains, most notably Marxism, the state holds ownership, but is supposed to represent the people in economic matters, in a sense of acting in their interest. There's more wiggle room here, but by most pragmatic definitions USSR was socialist in this sense.

Colloquially, "socialist" is indeed often used to refer to the concept of welfare state, largely because early socialist movements which were less radical did pursue causes that today form the foundation of it. In modern times it's often misappropriated to exploit the symbols - Che etc - or simply out of ignorance (like many of those protesters - "I'm against capitalism so I'm a socialist, duh" - where by "capitalism" a person really means corporatism or plutocracy). From the other side, there's the tradition of derogatory labeling "socialist" any left-wing movement - that largely comes out of American political thought. This all muddies the water considerably.

I find such use largely inappropriate, because it mixes up the general idea of society taking care of its members - welfare state (obviously good, unless you're a Randist) - with a much more specific idea of significantly changing the very concept of property ownership purportedly for the sake of a more equitable society - socialism (can be argued to be good or bad; also depends a lot on implementation).

Socialism, of course, doesn't necessarily mean Marxism or Leninism or Maoism. It existed before any of those guys. However, it doesn't have to do anything with modern European left, by and large (except for fringe left parties). And most certainly there aren't any socialist states in Europe. A country where a person can privately own a factory or other large business is by definition capitalist (capitalism = private ownership of the means of production aka capital). You can have laissez-faire capitalism, or you can have regulated one, and regulation can be in favor of capitalists (fascism) or in favor of the society (welfare state), but it's still capitalism and not socialism.

It's possible to mix & match the two by defining the boundary at which private ownership stops being legal - as e.g. Bolsheviks did in 1920s when they allowed small businesses while still retaining all industry in state ownership. China, Vietnam and Cuba are all playing that game today, in differing ways. I don't think there is any European country which does that, though.

Re:Oh! (1)

galanom (1021665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595816)

No, I didn't misunderstood you for American. The American Coward talking some nonsense about large intestines is probably an American.

In Europe, some countries, like the Scandinabian ones, have strong welfare systems.
They have private enterprises, but they are strongly regulated, and workers have many rights, unheard to Americans.
Critical industry, like power grid, defense, are owned by the state.
I would call them 'mixed economies'.

In western bloc, christian democrats vs. socialists are like republicans vs. democrats in America.
They both support capitalism, but socialists are milder.

When I said that "socialists" in Europe have nothing to do with Marxism/Leninism, I meant that "socialists" here support private enterprise,
diminish the role of the state, support the freedom of enterprise, support lower taxes on the rich and have unfavorable laws for workers.

For example, my country, Greece, has a "socialist" government but it destroys social welfare. New taxes are announced every day.
Taxable income is 462€. That is enough only for the rent. All public companies are sold to rich people for modest prices.
Moderately paid public servants saw their income being cut by 25% last year. VAT has risen to 23% and may go to 25%.

People here perceive socialists as completely identical to right-wingers. They may even call them right-wingers.
Strangely, no one says Greece is a socialist country, not even the socialists who rule it.

When we say "communism" we mean something like the USSR.
Those things you said, about stateless and classless society, are complete unheard to the westerners. They might sound somewhat romantic, utopian.

Re:Oh! (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595964)

In Europe, some countries, like the Scandinabian ones, have strong welfare systems.
They have private enterprises, but they are strongly regulated, and workers have many rights, unheard to Americans.
Critical industry, like power grid, defense, are owned by the state.
I would call them 'mixed economies'.

"Mixed economy" is a valid term, and reasonably descriptive, but it doesn't mean "mixed between capitalism and socialism". It means "mixed between state and private ownership", or alternatively "mixed between planned economy and free market".

In western bloc, christian democrats vs. socialists are like republicans vs. democrats in America.
They both support capitalism, but socialists are milder.

When I said that "socialists" in Europe have nothing to do with Marxism/Leninism, I meant that "socialists" here support private enterprise,
diminish the role of the state, support the freedom of enterprise, support lower taxes on the rich and have unfavorable laws for workers.

Yes, this is what they call "democratic socialism" these days. It's a historic label - most of those parties used to be real socialists back in early-to-mid 20th century, but Soviet Union going totalitarian and otherwise nasty scared a lot of people off, and pendulum swung the other way. It's about as meaningful today as U.S. "Democrats" and "Republicans" - it's really more of a trademark, and not descriptive of actual political ideology.

For example, my country, Greece, has a "socialist" government but it destroys social welfare. New taxes are announced every day.
Taxable income is 462€. That is enough only for the rent. All public companies are sold to rich people for modest prices.
Moderately paid public servants saw their income being cut by 25% last year. VAT has risen to 23% and may go to 25%.

Whatever claims the government of your country may make, after they signed up for "austerity measures", any claim that they are socialist (or even, generally speaking, left) should be met with derisive laughter.

But, hey, that's nothing new - Tony Blair's party was "Labor", too.

And it's not limited to the left. In my home country, we have a fairly large - third largest - parliamentary party called "Liberal Democratic Party of Russia". Yes their leader publicly denounces democracy, and their political platform is ultra-nationalist and ultra-statist.

Let the politicians call themselves whatever they want. Their actions matter, not their words.

Strangely, no one says Greece is a socialist country, not even the socialists who rule it.

That's because it ain't socialist :)

Besides, given the current situation, that would be quite a slap in the face of your nation.

FWIW, I haven't ever heard any European "socialist" party describe their country as socialist, even after they have been in power for years. Nor any of them say that they want their country to become socialist.

Those things you said, about stateless and classless society, are complete unheard to the westerners. They might sound somewhat romantic, utopian.

Oh yes, it's certainly utopian. But, see, "communism" - unlike many other "-isms" - has a very precise and accurate definition because it was explicitly given one. There was no such word until Marx invented it, and when he did, he used it to concisely label that utopian society he described. I think it makes sense to stick to that definition. (Similar goes for fascism, by the way - Mussolini provided extensive definition for it in his theoretical works, and the way the word is misused today usually has nothing in common with that.)

By the way, going with colloquial definitions also means that you have large swaths of political spectrum uncovered - if "communism" is USSR/China/Cuba/..., and "socialism" is what you now have in Greece, then what do you call guys such as real democratic socialists (those who want cooperative ownership of industry, but true democracy unlike USSR), or Luxembourgists and other non-Leninist, democratic Marxists, or anarcho-syndicalists and libertarian socialists? All these groups have far more in common between each other, and in the traditional scale that I'm using, they would all be properly called socialist.

Re:Oh! (1)

galanom (1021665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37597110)

By the way, going with colloquial definitions also means that you have large swaths of political spectrum uncovered - if "communism" is USSR/China/Cuba/..., and "socialism" is what you now have in Greece, then what do you call guys such as real democratic socialists (those who want cooperative ownership of industry, but true democracy unlike USSR), or Luxembourgists and other non-Leninist, democratic Marxists, or anarcho-syndicalists and libertarian socialists? All these groups have far more in common between each other, and in the traditional scale that I'm using, they would all be properly called socialist.

I am unaware of those theories. I've never heard of them. Are you sure they exist now?
I am aware of some people called "4th internationalists" or "Trotskysts" but their impact is below minimal. They received well below 0.1%. Nobody knows them, I don't even know how officially name their party. Apart from them there are some parties claim to be communist. But all of them receive around 0.2%.
So, in western bloc, these have no name at all. We can call them collectively "left-wingers"

Have you studies political sciences?

Re:shutdown -p now (807394), stop drooling and rea (1)

galanom (1021665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595558)

Human freedom was substantially curtailed, just like a communist state

That actually reminds me of American foreign policy of the past decades on Latin America...

Re:Free Market capitalism (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593096)

Just for shits and giggles: how would you ensure that something like this emphatically won't happen? No, you can't use the government for this, because that will be an expansion of government.

Re:Free Market capitalism (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593492)

The market will magically create competitors out of nothing and the cartel/monopoly will do nothing to prevent it.

Re:Free Market capitalism (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594048)

How does that apply here?

Patents aside, optical drives use ultra-precise elements, blue light laser that is capable of picking data 0.0003 millimeters apart, 400,000,000 times per second.

It's not like once the few competing firms fix price at $20, a garage competitor is gonna jump in and offer their blu-ray drives at $15, coming ahead of the price-fixing cartel.

Free market requires the law of big numbers to work. Say, one in 100 competitors decides to break out of a price fixing scheme, gets desperate and sells at a lower price.

Statistically, among 100,000 competitors who make shoes there will be 1000 rogue ones who oppose price fixing by others, come ahead of the rest in pricing, attract most customers and force others to drop their prices, for profit of the customer.

But here we don't have 100,000 competitors who make shoes. We have 10 competitors who make a highly specialized equipment. So statistically, there will be 0,1 rogue competitors who would break out of the price fixing agreement... which means none. Too few specimens for the law of big numbers to work, and free market fails. And no, deregulating the market won't suddenly create another 100 companies capable of manufacturing blue light laser that is capable of picking data 0.0003 millimeters apart, 400,000,000 times per second.

Re:Free Market capitalism (1)

Snarky McButtface (1542357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594126)

This [pcmag.com] is what happens to rogue competitors.

Re:Free Market capitalism (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 2 years ago | (#37597158)

Can't happen if there's 100 or more of them. But one... can be dealt with.

Re:Free Market capitalism (1)

Snarky McButtface (1542357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599612)

Initially there were more than 100 regional cellular phone companies. How many are there today? Unless you are in some place like Wyoming they do not exist. Merger [wikipedia.org] after merger [wikipedia.org] left us with basically four shitty choices.

Re:Free Market capitalism (3, Insightful)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 2 years ago | (#37592960)

Adam Smith, who made the case for market economies creating public good without meaning to, also worried about businessmen conspiring to gouge the public. At a guess, he would have approved of antitrust laws.

Re:Free Market capitalism (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593222)

At a guess, he would have approved of antitrust laws.

But I'm not so sure he would agree that they should be modeled as they are currently.

It's silly to me that when corporations are found guilty of stuff like this that they simply receive a fine.

If this were a person, they would receive the fine as well as possible prison time.

Where is the corporate prison time? I'm not so sure large corporations would be as interested in breaking the law if they knew it was going to cost them 18 months of lost sales.

Re:Free Market capitalism (1)

Xeranar (2029624) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593746)

Smith wrote a book prior to the Wealth of Nations advocating a better morality for dealings in this world. Smith if anything would have advocated for a harsher fine & perhaps forfeiture of property or profit.

Control is the opposite of free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37593150)

In order to be a "free" market, the market must not be controlled by any governing body.

If a cartel takes control of a market, then it is "controlled," and the cartel is the governing body.

So, allowing companies to combine into cartels destroys a free market, and the result is the opposite of the capitalistic ideal.

That shouldn't be hard to understand, even to people who have never heard of Adam Smith.

Re:Free Market capitalism (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593200)

well I have no problem with cartels as long as it is not a 'natural monopoly' like telecom.

If Hitachi and LG rig their prices too high, all their buyers (HP, Dell...) will take note. If the price gets too high, they will setup their own optical manufacturing.

Re:Free Market capitalism (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593290)

Unless you're willing to ban patents, they may not be able to set up their own manufacturing without the cooperation of the companies that are already conspiring against them.

Well, that's great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37592682)

Now, I suppose I'll have to RTFA to find out which CEOs or mid-level executives are going to prison in addition to the fine. I mean, 15 felony charges, there's gotta be a list of names, right?

Re:Well, that's great! (2)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37592822)

When the punishment for the crime is far lower than the profit made from it, crime will be common. I wonder if the free marketeers on here think that limited liability, that outrageous interference in the market, should be done away with.

Re:Well, that's great! (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37592900)

I wonder if the free marketeers on here think that limited liability, that outrageous interference in the market, should be done away with.

How do you have government-mandated liabilitiy limits in a free market?

Ah, you can't.

Re:Well, that's great! (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593540)

Sounds good to me. Hope you don't want to own any stock in those companies, because as an owner you will be liable for its losses.

Re:Well, that's great! (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593796)

Sounds good to me. Hope you don't want to own any stock in those companies, because as an owner you will be liable for its losses.

Imagine that - incurring both the risks and rewards. It's almost like ... being an owner!

Oh, right, government exists to socialize the losses for corporation owners, I forgot.

Re:Well, that's great! (0)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593246)

yeah, the alternative to the 'free marketteers' is a system where everything is price-fixed and everyone rips off everyone.

That's what the public sector is, and unions... massive price fixing schemes to benefit those in those institutions at the expense of the public.

Rail against 'the market' if you want... chances are what you advocate is worse.

Re:Well, that's great! (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593400)

I wonder if the free marketeers on here think that limited liability, that outrageous interference in the market, should be done away with.

There is more than one aspect to limited liability. Limitations on liability for harm done to people who did not choose to involve themselves with your company is clearly a problem. If someone harms you, even by accident, you have a right to be "made whole", and in the case of a corporation you should be able to hold not just the organization but the people behind it responsible for the injury.

Fortunately, in the cases where monetary compensation is insufficient and/or the organization lacks the resources to pay compensation on behalf of its owners, it is generally possible to "pierce the corporate veil" and go after the owners directly. Ergo, this is rarely an issue as such. The bigger problem here is that there is a monopoly on justice in the form of the government-run court system, and these courts tend to favor those with the most to spend on legal representation. Justice should be blind to wealth, or lack thereof, but clearly that is not the case.

Moving on, the other aspect of limited liability is limitations on liability for debt to creditors. This is simply a matter of private contract wherein creditors agree to limit their claims to the assets of the organization, rather than the personal assets of the owners. This form of limited liability is perfectly compatible with an interference-free market.

Re:Well, that's great! (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593574)

Who enforces the contract?

Charter Suspension (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593838)

Now, I suppose I'll have to RTFA to find out which CEOs or mid-level executives are going to prison in addition to the fine. I mean, 15 felony charges, there's gotta be a list of names, right?

CEO's and executives are disposable. What absolutely must not happen is that the corporation be held liable (i.e. corporate charter suspension). That corporations are afforded the benefits of personhood but never* incur the risks (jail time, execution) is evidence enough that the government is a corporatocracy.

* I did once see a restaurant with a sign in the window noticing that it was shut down under order of the Sheriff's department for employing illegal dishwashers. Too small to pay to play, I guess.

What's next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37592730)

Price-fixing on RAM, price-fixing on optical drives... next you'll be telling me Intel and AMD are conspiring to keep their prices higher too!

Co-Conspirators? (1)

Mr O (35045) | more than 2 years ago | (#37592770)

You can't price-fix without at least two parties. Anyone know who the co-conspirator(s) are?

Re:Co-Conspirators? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37592886)

You can't price-fix without at least two parties. Anyone know who the co-conspirator(s) are?

According to the charge, Hitachi-LG Data Storage executed the scheme through interstate communications, including an email sent by one of its employees to co-conspirators in San Jose, Calif., and the Republic of Korea, that contained first round bidding results and non-public, competitively sensitive information relating to the April 2009 event.

So, how many places in San Jose make optical drives? RoK is kind of vague, San Jose not so.

Re:Co-Conspirators? (2)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593822)

Maybe they rigged it with fake bidders.

Life's Good! (1)

mayko (1630637) | more than 2 years ago | (#37592776)

When you're fixing prices

Sure, it only cost $21m (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37592848)

That's like 30 minutes of turnover right? On par with a slightly risky investment, if they got away with it sure would have been worth more. Statutory punishment is only meant to deter criminality for the ordinary man, but somehow corps and jobs are more important than the people behind them.

Shocking news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37592812)

Huge multinational corporations fixing prices? How shocking

Smithers, my wallet! (3, Interesting)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 2 years ago | (#37592866)

This reminds me an episode of the Simpsons where Mr Burns is found guilty of some crime and asked to pay some "huge" amount, and he asks Smithers to get him his wallet and pays the fine cash as if nothing happened.

Re:Smithers, my wallet! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37593004)

Judge Snyder: Mr. Burns, in light of your unbelievable contempt for human life, this court fines you $3million.
Montgomery Burns: Smithers, my wallet's in my right front pocket.
[Smithers hands over the money]
Montgomery Burns: Oh, and I'll take that statue of justice too.
Judge Snyder: Sold!

Exactly! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37593130)

20 million dollars is pocket change for these companies.

Let's start with 20 BILLION dollars and see how many companies try something like this again...

monorail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37593234)

That was the monorail episode. The government quickly wasted the fine money on a faulty monorail. Most people overlooked Lisa's wise question of why a small town needed mass transit. sad.

Re:Smithers, my wallet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594464)

Oh please, this probably at least 0.1% of the profits they made with this illegal deal. Clearly they have no incentive to do it again.

any chance that $21M finds its way back to us? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37592916)

I'm wondering where the money goes. I could use another optical drive right now. Or does Hitachi-LG just pay it and then raise prices to compensate? That would make the score something like Hitachi-LG 0, government 1, users -1.

Re:any chance that $21M finds its way back to us? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37592982)

Do you really care to get that $0.78 back?

Re:any chance that $21M finds its way back to us? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593072)

Here is how it works in reality:

LG can't raise prices or you would buy the drives from a competitor so they have to eat the loss. If they could raise the price on these drives they would have already.

Re:any chance that $21M finds its way back to us? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37593310)

Sounds to me like they tried

Re:any chance that $21M finds its way back to us? (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593356)

So you're saying they have to step up their price fixing efforts?

Of course, the way it actually works is that they made more than the amount of the fines by price fixing in the first place, so they just write it off as a cost of doing business.

Re:any chance that $21M finds its way back to us? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593710)

Of course that is true, blame the DOJ. They cannot however regain these losses by raising prices now.

Re:any chance that $21M finds its way back to us? (1)

cyberfin (1454265) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593336)

One word: Monorail!

Re:any chance that $21M finds its way back to us? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594548)

> One word: Monorail!

Ok, ... monorail.... monorail... um, monorail... Ok I don't get it. I haven't been to Disneyland in years.

Re:any chance that $21M finds its way back to us? (1)

cyberfin (1454265) | more than 2 years ago | (#37596390)

Google Simpsons and Monorail.

Re:any chance that $21M finds its way back to us? (1)

hort_wort (1401963) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594150)

I could see the government pocketing the money, then turning to say:
"Good news, America! We're lowering your taxes by $21 million!!"
Of course, without actually lowering anything....

Re:any chance that $21M finds its way back to us? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37607444)

Yeeah...fines are useless. Fines aren't even feared, they're accounted for in budgets. Disbanding companies like this would be my favorite course of action, although I'm not qualified to say it would be "the best", just the most rewarding emotionally., All assets would be sold off to the highest bidder, and the cash collected sent to US institutions who could use it to prop up our science and technology.

There's a lot to consider, namely--why affect all the workforce if it's only a few bad eggs in the company? And I agree, that's not quite fair. But when you have the potential for an entire work force out of work because of you, you'll think twice.

This is because intel was not fucked up (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#37592920)

when it came out that they paid pc manufacturers to not use its competitor's cpus. or, when it came out that flat-panel lcd manufacturers fixed prices in usa.

all they got was a small 'fine' compared to the profits they made from the deal. aaaaand - voila - other companies did similar things too. why not just pay $21 million fine, making hundreds of millions or even billions in the process ?

if intel got a major hit, other companies would not dare doing the same. but see, they made PROFIT out of their bastardry, and voila - there are others doing that too !

Now how about those ISPs now? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37593002)

We know they have been doing this shit for so god damn long now it hurts.
Why aren't they fixing that crap already?

Must be nice. (2)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593120)

It must be nice to be part of a huge corporation where no one has to worry about going to prison when they rip off a few million dollars from the public.

optical drives a thin profit business (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37593138)

Optical drives have a pretty thin profit margin these days, so I would not get aggressive on price fixing enforcement. Poor companies, just want to eek out a single digit profit margin. Feel bad for them, just like the airline industry.

Re:optical drives a thin profit business (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593198)

No one forces them to compete in this market if they don't like it let them stop making them. I will not feel bad for someone who tried to ripoff consumers to make a quick buck.

We shouldn't be too eager to do this! (2)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593180)

There are objectively defined cases of price fixing, and this particular case seems to fit the definition. I'm not particularly trying to take heat off Hitachi in what follows, but it needs to be pointed out:
          Whenever a tech industry member gets charged with price fixing, anti-trust, violating export restrictions, or similar, remember, the way the US government calculates the inflation rate, they include an adjustment to new tech for the new features. The way the formula works, if a basic laptop computer sells for, say, $499, and two years later, one still sells for $499, but the DVD reader has been upgraded to a Blue Ray reader for entry level models, the formula counts that as deflation, making the overall inflation rate lower. Pushing tech companies to stop price fixing, while ignoring price fixing by, say, kid's cereal makers, will make the inflation rate look a little better, while the reverse isn't usually true with the formula adjustments now used. Many parts of the financial sector benefit from the claim that inflation is low, as do those political factions that don't want COLAs for social security. If you really tally up just who would prefer the government investigate Microsoft, Sony, Hitachi or AMD, vrs. investigating, say, Caterpillar Tractor, Tesla Motors, General Mills, Walmart or Archer Daniels Midland, you can see some real pressure to pursue some investigations thoroughly and drop others quickly.

pot calling the kettle black (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37593260)

So HP & Dell team together and let everyone know how much they are going to pay. Hitachi and friends get together to determine how much they are going to charge. I fail to see the difference in the behavior.

Time, they are a changin (1)

GalacticOvergrow (1926998) | more than 2 years ago | (#37593474)

When I look at the prices of the items I think to myself, WOW how much cheaper can this crap get?!? My first CPU was an 8080 and I paid over $300, my first LCD was $3300 and my first read only caddy 1x cd drive was $400. I paid $1000 for 48k of ram for my Apple II. I am old :-/

criminal corporations (1)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594128)

The problem is that "criminal" is a meaningless term when it comes to corporations. Or have you ever heard of a corporation being put in jail?

No, a corporation will pay a fine. "Criminal" carries a much higher threat value for real persons, who can be put away.

Re:criminal corporations (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 2 years ago | (#37594562)

"Criminal" for corporations should be handled as probation, where a corporation once convicted or pleads guilty and put on probation for a term, during that term has no privacy or right to refuse inspection or investigation by government officials. This would extend to all operations and investigations of all things not just ones related to the original complaint. Just like a probationer or parolee has essentially no right to refuse any level of investigation by their PO.

Re:criminal corporations (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#37596380)

And if the corporation refuses? Find them in contempt, and put them on probation... Oh, wait, then we're back where we started. The whole point of a corporation is "limited liability", and until something is done about that (ie. stop pretending people aren't making the decisions) nothing will change.

Re:criminal corporations (1)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37596898)

There are already specific points at which a corporation does not protect its executives or owners. And yes, whenever such a thing comes up in court, it works like a charm.

There's a story about a major german corporation, one of the biggest in fact, that simply refused to comply with some legal requirement, exhibiting a pretty open "so sue me" attitude. Well, someone did. Corporation prepared to laugh it off, put a bit of money on the side to pay the fine and otherwise ignore the matter.
Judge didn't like that atittude one bit and ordered the entire board of directors to be imprisoned for contempt until they wised up. The police had not even entered the building when the board had in an emergency meeting pulled a full 180Â on the original matter.

However, it is also good that liability limitation usually works. Otherwise, things like this would stop being exceptional and would thus lose their effectiveness.

Re:criminal corporations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37595202)

What do people value most? Freedom. How do you most effectively punish a person? Take away his freedom.

What do corporations value most? Money. How do you most effectively punish a corporation? See if you can figure it out.

Re:criminal corporations (1)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37596876)

While true, this is oversimplified.

Money is easy to simply figure into the cost of operating, and that's exactly how corporations deal with fines. I've had enough closed-door meetings with C-Level executives where these things were quite openly discussed.

Getting put in jail is, to appropriate the business terms for a person, an interruption of operating. You can't simply include it and otherwise proceed as normal. More importantly, it also effectively prevents you from committing further crimes, at least for a time.

Both of these aspects are missing from fines.

LG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37594576)

Life's Greed

275x SPEED (i DON'T FSCKING CARE) (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595272)

All the recent burners I've bought list super-helicopter-ready speeds... Can I have one that is silent?

I don't fscking care if it's 2X read, I don't want to have to listen to it on a take off. (yes, I know, Nero Speed and some other software might take care of that, but I don't need/want them)

Anyways, burning at those speeds will only introduce more errors....

subject (1)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 2 years ago | (#37595390)

Let this slap on the wrist be a lesson to you, Hitachi-LG!

The Informant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37596674)

Here's hoping they make a sequel to "The Informant" with Matt Damon playing the part of some wacky Japanese nerd...

Well, duh... (1)

epp_b (944299) | more than 2 years ago | (#37596750)

It's little wonder HP wanted to charge me nearly $500 for a replacement laptop DVD burner (for me to install myself) when one alone can't be more than $75 in total manufacturing costs (including profit).

No Samsung Info Yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37607250)

Hitachi-LG's fines are a drop in the bucket. I was surprised not to find Samsung on the list (yet, but they are being investigated) . I'm only assuming they'd be into price fixing optical drives, like they were happy to do with their RAM. As optical media increasingly becomes more rare and irrelevant, it'll be nice to think of this partnership in the past tense.

What are we, really, supposed to do about this? Hitachi was recently fined for LCD fixing,too. This type of behavior is rampant globally, and it's not as if consumers are readily aware. And even of those who are aware--its not like we can go "well, I don't need a computer."

Lets stop trading with these companies and make our own technology powerhouses stateside!

Just kidding, It's all manufactured in China, anyway.

Oh gracious asian overlords of the electronic markets, please have mercy on your loyal subjects.

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