Court outlines Apple punishment for 'blatant price-fixing' of e-books

Apple iPad e-book menu
Apple's other courtroom drama

Apple was poked in the iBooks today, after a New York judge set in motion restrictions on the company for having conspired to price-fix e-books with publishers.

"I want to fashion as narrow a remedy as possible to restore competition to retailers of e-books," said U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan today, according to BusinessWeek.

"We do need an injunction here. There was blatant price-fixing."

That remedy calls for Apple to hold contract renegotiations with the five publishers who settled with the Justice Department. And it couldn't be in contract discussions with more than one publisher at a time.

"This was a rough and tumble game played with high stakes...and the consumer suffered," Cote said in comments captured by CNET, which noted that the judge called out Apple for a lack of remorse.

"They are, in a word, unrepentant."

No external monitor required

The judge, in a non-jury trial, found that Apple and book publishers attempted to work together to raise e-book prices.

This was allegedly in an effort force Amazon to change its pricing model that often sold best-selling e-books at $9.99 through its Kindle service.

But while the judge condemned both Apple and book publishers for their practices, she didn't call for an external antitrust monitor to track its activities like the Justice Department had wanted.

Instead, BusinessWeek noted that Apple can "adopt a vigorous internal antitrust program and convince the court there's no need for a monitor."

"If we can adequately protect price competition without touching the flexibility and management of the App Store, that would be my preference," concluded Cote, according to CNET.

Matt Swider