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Megacorporation, mega-corporation, or megacorp, a term popularized by William Gibson, derives from the combination of the prefix mega- with the word corporation. It has become widespread in cyberpunk literature. It refers to a corporation (normally fictional) that is a massive conglomerate (usually private), holding monopolistic or near-monopolistic control over multiple markets (thus exhibiting both a horizontal and a vertical monopoly). Megacorps are so powerful that they can ignore the law, possess their own heavily armed (often military-sized) private armies, be the operator of a privatized police force, hold "sovereign" territory, and even act as outright governments. They often exercise a large degree of control over their employees, taking the idea of "corporate culture" to an extreme. Such organizations as a staple of science fiction long predate cyberpunk, appearing in the works of writers such as Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, 1968), Thea von Harbou (Metropolis, 1927), Robert A. Heinlein (Citizen of the Galaxy, 1957), Robert Asprin (The Cold Cash War, 1977), and Andre Norton (the Solar Queen novels). The explicit use of the term in the Traveller science fiction roleplaying game from 1977 predates Gibson's use of it.
Although the term itself arose out of science fiction, certain real-life corporations, such as colonial-era chartered companies and zaibatsu, have achieved or approached megacorporation status in various ways. The private Dutch East India Company, for example, operated 40 warships and had 10,000 private soldiers to monitor its farflung spice empire, while the British East India Company controlled a large colonial empire in the mid-19th century before the company was dissolved and its territories absorbed into the British Empire. The Hudson's Bay Company was once the world's largest landowner, exercising legal control and a trading monopoly on its territory known as Rupert's Land which consisted of 15% of the North American land mass.
Today many countries have competition laws (also known as antitrust laws) to prevent real-life corporations from having mega-corporation characteristics. On the other hand, some countries protect a certain industry deemed important by mandating that only a single company, usually state owned, can operate in it. An example of the latter is Saudi Arabia, which gains the majority of its government revenues through its mega-corporation Saudi Aramco.
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