US DOJ defends Apple ebook suit amid criticism

Critics are skeptical of the DOJ's ebook antitrust suit

The U.S. Department of Justice accused Apple in April of conspiring with book publishers to fix ebook prices across the marketplace, ensuring lower prices in Apple's iBooks store than in competitors' and causing prices overall to rise.

The controversial case drew 868 public comments after three of the publishers accused of colluding with Apple and one another settled.

The comments range from support to criticism of the DOJ's actions, which prompted the antitrust authorities to leap to their own defense in a new filing.

The DOJ said critics of the suit either don't understand it or are simply supporting "their own self-interests, and they prefer that unfettered competition be replaced by industry collusion that places the welfare of certain firms over that of the public."

The filing continues to claim that Apple's attempts to alter the existing settlement "would serve only to undermine the proposed (settlement's) effectiveness, reducing the value of the settlement to consumers."

DOJ exposing Apple?

According to the DOJ, it's "a naked attempt by Apple to have its competitors' ability to compete on price constrained."

In April, the Justice Department filed suit against Apple and five publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillian, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin), three of which (Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster) settled almost immediately.

It was those settlements that opened the case up to public comment.

Apple denied the DOJ's allegations, and several independent publishers stepped up to back Apple shortly after the accusations were made official.

Those allegations include claims that a 30-50 percent jump in ebook prices around the time of the introduction of Apple's iPad was the result of collusion between Apple and major publishers, and not of free market forces.

The deal between the publishers caused the entire digital book industry to shift from a model that allowed retailers to set their own prices to an "agency model" in which publishers instead dictated prices to retailers.

According to the DOJ, it's that agency model that's allowed Apple to take the ebook throne, and the collusion between Apple and the publishers constitutes a trust that must be broken up.

The trial is currently set for June 2013.

Via Phys Org

Michael Rougeau

Michael Rougeau is a former freelance news writer for TechRadar. Studying at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Northeastern University, Michael has bylines at Kotaku, 1UP, G4, Complex Magazine, Digital Trends, GamesRadar, GameSpot, IFC, Animal New York, @Gamer, Inside the Magic, Comic Book Resources, Zap2It, TabTimes, GameZone, Cheat Code Central, Gameshark, Gameranx, The Industry, Debonair Mag, Kombo, and others.

Micheal also spent time as the Games Editor for, and was the managing editor at GameSpot before becoming an Animal Care Manager for Wags and Walks.