Apple faces renewed DoJ ebook price-fix punishments

Aug 23, 2013
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A new set of proposed remedies suggested by the DoJ in the Apple ebook price-fixing case has tempered some of the issues the Cupertino firm complained about, but the agency maintains Apple should face tough penalties for continuing to deny any wrongdoing. The second batch of suggestions, submitted by the US Department of Justice today, come after Apple described the original set as "wildly out of proportion to any adjudicated wrongdoing or potential harm" not to mention "draconian", taking issue with calls for Amazon and other ebook vendors to be permitted links to their own download stores, and bans on any sort of negotiations with content owners that might raise the price of purchase for users.

Initially, the DoJ had asked for Apple to be affected by the injunction for a full decade. Now, the agency has agreed to halving that to five years, though with the added extra that it be permitted to request up to five one-year extensions following that period. Meanwhile, the limits on negotiations that Apple said would damage its ability to run the App Store and iTunes Store and still make a profit have been dropped.

However, the DoJ still wants to control what negotiations Apple can make with ebook publishers. Staggered negotiations, beginning no sooner than two years time, are the suggestion. Publishers themselves had been similarly outraged as Apple at the original proposals, insisting that the limits placed on the iPad maker would have a knock-on effect to their own abilities to negotiate that the DoJ had permitted as part of their individual settlements.

Nonetheless, the DoJ isn't sapping all of its venom. Although the Justice agency said that it had no intention to "unnecessarily harm Apple" with its proposed remedies, it still believes that some degree of punishment is required, not least because Apple continues to protest its own innocence.

"Quite simply, Apple wants to continue business as usual, regardless of the antitrust laws," the DoJ wrote in its filing. "This court should have no confidence that Apple on its own effectively can ensure that its illegal conduct will not be repeated. There must be significant oversight by someone not entrenched in Apple's culture of insensitivity to basic tenets of antitrust law."

Apple is yet to comment on the amended proposals, though the company's ongoing intention to appeal the original ebook price-fixing ruling would indicate it would be unwilling to settle for any sort of punishment. The New York court itself will decide whether to take the DoJ's advice, and what damages are suitable.

VIA Chicago Tribune


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