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Business & Economics Free Enterprise

Chokepoint Capitalism

How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We'll Win Them Back

by (author) Rebecca Giblin & Cory Doctorow

Beacon Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2022
Free Enterprise, Social Classes, Economic Policy
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2022
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A call to action for the creative class and labor movement to rally against the power of Big Tech and Big Media

Corporate concentration has breached the stratosphere, as have corporate profits. An ever-expanding constellation of industries are now monopolies (where sellers have excessive power over buyers) or monopsonies (where buyers hold the whip hand over sellers)—or both.

In Chokepoint Capitalism, scholar Rebecca Giblin and writer and activist Cory Doctorow argue we’re in a new era of “chokepoint capitalism,” with exploitative businesses creating insurmountable barriers to competition that enable them to capture value that should rightfully go to others. All workers are weakened by this, but the problem is especially well-illustrated by the plight of creative workers. From Amazon’s use of digital rights management and bundling to radically change the economics of book publishing, to Google and Facebook’s siphoning away of ad revenues from news media, and the Big Three record labels’ use of inordinately long contracts to up their own margins at the cost of artists, chokepoints are everywhere.

By analyzing book publishing and news, live music and music streaming, screenwriting, radio and more, Giblin and Doctorow deftly show how powerful corporations construct “anti-competitive flywheels” designed to lock in users and suppliers, make their markets hostile to new entrants, and then force workers and suppliers to accept unfairly low prices.

In the book’s second half, Giblin and Doctorow then explain how to batter through those chokepoints, with tools ranging from transparency rights to collective action and ownership, radical interoperability, contract terminations, job guarantees, and minimum wages for creative work.

Chokepoint Capitalism is a call to workers of all sectors to unite to help smash these chokepoints and take back the power and profit that’s being heisted away—before it’s too late.

About the authors

Rebecca Giblin's profile page

Cory Doctorow is a multi-award-winning science fiction author, technologist, activist and speaker. His novels include Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Eastern Standard Tribe and the recently released contemporary fantasy, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town.

Cory Doctorow's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“[Giblin and Doctorow] deliver a lucid and damning exposé of how big business captured the culture markets.”
Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"This book is an absolute must-read for anyone who senses that the predominant economic mythology is a lie…and who is ready to finally start fixing the problem."
—David Sirota, writer of Don't Look Up and founder of The Lever
“Giblin and Doctorow persuasively argue that copyright can’t unrig a rigged market—for that you need worker power, antitrust, and solidarity.”
—Jimmy Wales, cofounder of Wikipedia
“Are you a writer, a musician, an artist? Is Big Tech eating your brain and sucking your financial blood?...Chokepoint Capitalism tells us how the vampires crashed the party and provides protective garlic.”
—Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale
“I loved this book…It helps us all see the locks and chains, and the ways to chisel through them.”
—Zephyr Teachout, law professor and author of Corruption in America and Break ‘Em Up
“Creators are being ground up by the modern culture industries, with little choice but to participate in markets…Giblin and Doctorow show why, and offer a range of powerful strategies for fighting back.”
—Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership, Harvard Law School
“Capitalism doesn’t work without competition. Giblin and Doctorow impressively show the extent to which that’s been lost throughout the creative industries, and how this pattern threatens every other worker.”
—Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist
“A tome for the times…The revolution will not be spotified!”
—Christopher Coe, artist and cofounder of Awesome Soundwave
Chokepoint Capitalism couples its legal-economic critique with provocative, sometimes utopian, prescriptions for fairly remunerating authors and performers.”
—Jane C. Ginsburg, Morton L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law, Columbia University School of Law
“Searing, essential, and incredibly readable.”
—Adam Conover, comedian and host of The G-Word
"An urgent, profound, and approachable take on what it's going to take to save our culture. If you care about books, movies, or music, read this book right now. And share a copy with a friend."
—Seth Godin, author of The Practice
“If you have ever wondered why the web feels increasingly stale, Chokepoint Capitalism outlines in great detail how it is being denied fresh air.”
—Mat Dryhurst, artist and researcher, NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music
Chokepoint Capitalism is more than a clarion call for a new, necessary form of trustbusting. It’s a grand unified theory of a decades-long, corporate-led hollowing out of creative culture.”
—Andy Greenberg, writer for WIRED and author of Sandworm and Tracers in the Dark

"Not just a fascinating tour of the hidden mechanics of the platform era, from Spotify playlists to Prince's name change, but a compelling agenda to break Big Tech's hold."
—Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble and cofounder of Avaaz
“Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow lay out their case in plain and powerful prose, offering a grand tour of the blighted cultural landscape and how our arts and artists have been chickenized, choked, and cheated.”
—Kaiser Kuo, host and cofounder of The Sinica Podcast
“Every creator will find inspiration here.”
—Anil Dash, CEO of Glitch
“A masterwork…It’s a necessary read for any artist in the entertainment industry.”
—David A. Goodman, writer, executive producer of The Orville, and former president of the WGA West

“An infuriating yet inspiring call to collective action.”
—Douglas Rushkoff, author of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus and Survival of the Richest

Other titles by Cory Doctorow