Judge Plans on Tough Apple Ebook Restrictions

Judge Denise Cote is considering hitting Apple with some pretty stiff sanctions in the Department of Justice's ebook price fixing case against the company including restricting the types of contracts Apple can strike for five years and an additional five years of government oversight. She won't, however, grant the DOJ everything it wanted in its remedies proposal, and refused Apple's request to put the case on hold during the appeal process.

Judge considers stiff penalties in Apple ebook price fixing trialJudge considers stiff penalties in Apple ebook price fixing trial

Apple, along with 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 while Apple chose to go to trial.

Judge Cote sided with the DOJ and ruled that Apple did conspire with publishers to raise book prices. The DOJ asked for remedies that go beyond what Judge Cote is considering, and which Apple called "draconian."

The DOJ argued that Apple and the publishers were trying to force the price of ebooks above the US$9.99 Amazon was charging to make customers pay more. Apple argued that it was simply trying to strike reasonable deals to bring titles to the iBookstore, while the publishers said Amazon was forcing retailers to sell books below cost to drive them out of the market.

Along with the oversight Judge Cote wants to impose, she's considering limiting Apple to negotiating with only one publisher every six months as a way to limit the likelihood of colluding on future book deals. She said that would ensure that "at no one point in time will Apple be able to renegotiate with all the publisher defendants at once."

Apple made it very clear that it is appealing Judge Cote's ruling and even said she made errors during the trial be refusing to allow testimony that helped its case. The DOJ shot back with accusations that Apple and the publishers are already conspiring again.

Judge Cote is already working on scheduling future hearings in the case.

[Thanks to NDVT for the heads up]