Feeds

Publishers stand behind Apple in ebook price-fixing fight

DoJ trying to 'impose a specific business model on the publishing industry,' they argue

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The essential guide to IT transformation

The five publishers involved in the Apple ebook lawsuit-o-rama have filed a formal objection to the remedies proposed by the US Department of Justice after Cupertino lost its court battle concerning alleged price fixing.

"Despite achieving their stated goal of returning price competition, plaintiffs now seek to improperly impose additional, unwarranted restrictions on the settling defendants, thereby depriving each publisher of the benefit of its bargain with plaintiffs," the publishers write in their filing.

Hachette, HarperCollins, Holtzbrinck/Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster claim that the sweeping restrictions proposed by the DoJ would unfairly punish them – an especially galling outcome, seeing as how all five reached settlements with the DoJ and various state attorneys general, and paid out $166m in total to settle the claims.

Only Apple risked a trial on the matter – and lost.

Among the remedies proposed by the DoJ is the requirement that Apple "terminate its existing agreements with the five major publishers with which it conspired," be barred for five years from entering any new ebook distribution deals that would restrict Apple from price competition, and that Cook & Co. "be prohibited from again serving as a conduit of information among the conspiring publishers or from retaliating against publishers for refusing to sell e-books on agency terms" – agency terms being deals in which the publishers set the ebooks' prices and Apple takes a cut.

The publishers argue that the DoJ's proposed remedies punish them by preventing them from entering into agency agreements with Apple, even though their own settlements allow them to strike agency deals with ebook sellers, albeit with some limitations.

"The provisions do not impose any limitation on Apple's pricing behavior at all;" the publishers argue in their filing, "rather, under the guise of punishing Apple, they effectively punish the Settling Defendants by prohibiting agreements with Apple using an agency model."

The DoJ disagrees with the publishers – the Settling Defendants – that the proposed remedies conflict with their settlements. "The proposed relief does not modify the terms of the settlements we reached with the publisher defendants," a DoJ spokeswoman told Reuters.

The publishers, however, are of the opinion that the DoJ is overreaching by "attempting to impose a specific business model on the publishing industry, despite their express and repeated representations that they would play no such role."

This Friday, Apple will be back in court to argue against the DoJ's proposed remedies. With their Wednesday court filing, Hachette, HarperCollins, Holtzbrinck/Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster have come down solidly on Apple's side – at least regarding the five-year ban on agency-agreement deals.

There's more to the DoJ's remedies, however. The proposal also would require Apple to allow ebook retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble to sell ebooks directly through their iOS apps – a practice Apple now bans – and would put Apple under the watchful eye of an "external monitor" whose job would be, as the DoJ puts it, "to ensure that Apple's internal antitrust compliance policies are sufficient to catch anticompetitive activities before they result in harm to consumers."

When arguing for relief from those proposed remedies, Apple will be on its own. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.