Apple conspired to raise e-book prices, judge says

Ruling brings DOJ’s case against computer giant to a close

A federal judge dealt Apple Inc. a mighty blow yesterday when she ruled in the ongoing e-book suit that the computer giant indeed conspired to fix e-book prices.

The case dates back a little more than a year, when the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed suits against Apple and five publishers—MacMillan, Penguin Group, Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster—for conspiring to fix e-book prices. The five publishers eventually settled with the DOJ, but Apple—which the Justice Department claimed spearheaded the price-fixing conspiracy—fought to the bitter end.

But on Wednesday, the case came to a close as Judge Denise L. Cote issued her ruling, saying Apple  took advantage of the publishers’ “fear and frustration” associated with Amazon’s control over e-book pricing. She also pointed out that the discussions Apple had with the publishers occurred just before the release of the iPad in 2010, and the company “seized the moment and brilliantly played its hand.”

But even after the ruling, Apple refuses to admit any wrongdoing.

“Apple did not conspire to fix e-book pricing and we will continue to fight against these false accusations,” Tom Neumayr, an Apple spokesman, said. “When we introduced the iBookstore in 2010, we gave customers more choice, injecting much needed innovation and competition into the market, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry.”

The DOJ, however, sees the decision as a resounding victory.

“Companies cannot ignore the antitrust laws when they believe it is in their economic self-interest to do so,” the DOJ said in a statement. “This decision by the court is a critical step in undoing the harm caused by Apple’s illegal actions.”

Read more about this story on the New York Times and NPR.

For more InsideCounsel coverage of e-book price-fixing suits, see:

DOJ says Apple spearheaded e-book price-fixing scheme

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

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