Is Apple a common carrier?

“As more of us take up residence in a virtual world, definitions and legal distinctions of the past no longer apply,” Bill Davidow writes for Forbes. “A common carrier today is nothing like what a common carrier used to be. Apple, Google, Facebook, and many others are already well on their way to becoming common carriers in this new space.”

Davidow writes, “What, exactly, is a common carrier? It is any vendor with a monopoly advantage in a market. And because of that advantage, the carrier must provide access to customers without discrimination. A common carrier is legally bound to carry all passengers or freight as long as there is enough space, the fee is paid, and no reasonable grounds to refuse to do so exist. A common carrier that refuses to carry a particular person or cargo without sufficient justification may be sued for damages.”

“Of course, neither Apple nor the government thinks of Apple as a common carrier,” Davidow writes. “The reason is that we tend to associate common carriers with physical properties—railroads, airplanes, trucks, and copper and fiber cables. We do not think of applications that use those facilities as common carriers, but clearly they are. For example, the Post Office is a common carrier: it is an application that uses airplanes, railroads, and trucks owned by other common carriers to carry their freight.”

Davidow writes, “If the Post Office in the 1930’s had behaved like Apple does today, it would have taken a 30 percent cut of everything shipped to customers by the great mail order houses of the day—Sears and Montgomery Ward.”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. Wrong.

    Apple provides the storefront, and take a percentage of the merchandise. Just like Sears and Montgomery Ward take a percentage of the merch they sell from their stores.

    Delivery is another animal.

  2. Apple takes it’s pound of flesh just like WalMart or the Mom & Pop stores that WalMart terrifies. Apple is an internet store selling digital and physical goods.

    When that damn iTeleportation device is finally released, Apple will be a Common Carrier. Until then STFU.

  3. Who says they didn’t?

    Mail carrier to Sears, “Give me a 30% cut and I’ll deliver your catalog first and maybe even lose a few Monkey Ward’s catalog.

    Then after striking the deal goes to Monkey Ward and says, “Give a 30% cut and I’ll…” lol

  4. Apple has no monopoly advantage in any market whatsoever. They are not the only maker of computers, smart phones, mp3 players, or tablets. They are in no way a common carrier according to the “author’s” own logic. What an inane article. Can’t the web do better than this drivel?

    1. My favourite quote about Rand’s book is from Douglas Adams:
      The Lord of the Rings, and Atlas Shrugged, are two books you can give a 15-year-old kid that’ll change his life forever. One will draw him into a fantasy world where people who are losers in real life can become heroic captains engaged in a timeless, righteous struggle against evil. The other is about orcs.”

  5. Really inappropriate analogy. Going with Mac Guy’s reference to Ayn Rand,

    “If some men do not choose to think, but survive by imitating and repeating, like trained animals, the routine sounds and motions they learned from others, never making an effort to understand… they are the men who march into the abyss, trailing after any destroyer who promises them to assume the responsibility they evade: the responsibility of being conscious.”

  6. I agree that placing Apple, Google, Facebook, etc as potential common carriers is wrong. Comcast, Time-Warner, Qwest, etc, those are the conglomerates we need to have the discussion about.

    1. Bingo! That’s because those companies (and others like them) are the ones who actually deliver the content that Apple (and others like them) are selling.

      In other words, it is the ISPs who are actually the digital equivalent of common carriers.

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