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DOJ says Apple spearheaded e-book price-fixing scheme

Apple denies allegations

The Department of Justice (DOJ) says there’s one organization to blame for spearheading the e-book price-fixing scheme—Apple Inc.

The case dates back a little more than a year, when the DOJ filed suits against Apple and five publishers—MacMillan, Penguin Group, Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster—for conspiring to fix e-book prices.

According to a number of filings the DOJ made public this week, Apple admitted to meeting with other publishing companies to craft agreements regarding the sale of e-books. Apple said, however, that each of the companies independently decided to force Amazon to raise the prices of its e-books.   

But the DOJ sees it differently, implying in its recent filings that Apple started the e-book antitrust ball rolling.  

Through meetings with various publishing executives, "Apple set out to impose a new distribution model on e-books, a so-called agency model, under which [defendants Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Holtzbrinck Publishers, and Simon & Schuster] could set their higher consumer prices and then hand over the extra revenues to Apple," the DOJ’s filing said. The department goes on to say that its claims are backed up through email evidence, including one between Steve Jobs and head of HarperCollins Rupert Murdoch, whose reputation is already highly questionable.

Not surprisingly, Apple denies the accusations.

“Apple did not conspire to fix eBook pricing,” Tom Neumayr, a spokesman for Apple, said in statement to Bloomberg. “We helped transform the eBook market with the introduction of the iBookstore in 2010 bringing consumers an expanded selection of eBooks and delivering innovative new features. The market has been thriving and innovating since Apple’s entry and we look forward to going to trial to defend ourselves.” 

Since the DOJ filed its e-book antitrust suit in 2012, all the publishers have settled—MacMillan just last month.

Read more InsideCounsel coverage of the e-book suits:

MacMillan settles e-book class actions

DOJ and Penguin reach settlement in e-books suit

Apple and e-book publishers offer proposed settlement with EU

Chinese writers win copyright battle against search engine Baidu

Romance novel authors sue over royalties

Barnes & Noble objects to e-book settlement

Apple takes on suits over e-books and Siri

Apple rejects DOJ charge of e-book price collusion

Authors sue Google over book digitization project

Google in talks with authors, publishers

Google gets two months to finalize Google Books

Google loses book case


Cathleen Flahardy

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