Apple, along with publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Penguin, is the target of a price- fixing antitrust lawsuit filed by the US government, alleging the companies colluded on the price of ebooks. The lawsuit was filed in New York district court, Bloomberg reports, and while full details of the suit are unknown, it’s believed that some of the publishers are chasing an early settlement. Update: News on settlements and the full documentation after the cut.
HarperCollins and Hachette Book Group, for instance, could settle as early as today, according to two insiders with knowledge of the situation. Their aim is to avoid what would likely become a costly legal fight with the Justice Department.
However, others – including Penguin – are supposedly preparing for a fight, according to other sources. Neither any of the targets of the lawsuit, or indeed the US Justice Department, would comment on the case publicly.
At the root of the case – which was rumored to be in the pipeline earlier - is the so-called Agency Model, where publishers can set their own minimum prices for ebooks that retailers must abide by. Instead, the government wants a return to the wholesale model, where retailers can choose to set their own pricing; Apple had opted for the agency model when it launched its iBooks platform, as a way of quickly getting the big names in publishing onboard.
What remains to be seen is what impact the lawsuit could actually have on the different models, with legal experts saying that a win for the Department of Justice might not actually mean the wholesale model is forced upon publishers.
Update: According to Bloomberg‘s sources, Simon & Schuster, Hachette and HarperCollins have all agreed to settle with the Justice Department. No terms have been revealed.
Meanwhile, the full documentation for the suit has been released by the DoJ; it’s embedded below: