DOJ Slams Publishers for Backing Apple in Ebook Trial

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed its response with the court to Apple's assertion that Judge Cote made errors during their ebook price fixing trial, and criticized publishers for backing the iPad and iPhone maker. The DOJ claimed that publishers have "banded together," just as they did to artificially force book prices up.

The DOJ thinks publishers are already colluding again to control ebook pricesThe DOJ thinks publishers are already colluding again to control ebook prices

Penguin, MacMillan Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Hachette Book Group were all accused of conspiring with Apple to push book prices up above the rates Amazon was charging. The publishers all settled out of court to avoid the potentially high costs they would've otherwise incurred. Apple, however, did not agree to a pre-trial deal and ultimately Judge Denise Cote ruled that the company did, in fact, conspire to raise ebook prices.

Along with its harsh words for book publishers, the DOJ said that Apple's claims that its proposed remedies in the case are draconian are off base, according to Gigaom. Those remedies seem to reach beyond controlling Apple's business practices and directly impact publishers as well.

The DOJ backed up its claims that publishers are already colluding again by stating,

[There] is reason to believe the Publisher Defendants may be positioning themselves to pick things back up where they left off as soon as their two-year clocks run. Indeed, the very fact that the Publisher Defendants have banded together once again, this time to jointly oppose two provisions in the Proposed Final Judgment that they believe could result in lower ebook prices for consumers, only highlights why it is necessary to ensure that Apple (and hopefully other retailers) can discount ebooks and compete on retail price for as long as possible.

Apple, however, has stood by its position that there never was a conspiracy and that it was simply striking independent deals with the publishers to bring their books to the iBookstore.

The DOJ is asking the court to approve a ten-year plan where Apple's dealings would be closely monitored, where the company would be forced to break its current contracts with publishers, and wouldn't be allowed to enter into competitive contracts for five years -- which is longer than the terms Publishers agreed to in their settlements.

Both sides will appear before Judge Cote today to argue their cases, and Apple will push for a stay in the case while it pursues an appeal on her verdict.