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Apple e-book price fixing trial begins

The US Department of Justice [official website] case against Apple [corporate website] began in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Monday with an attorney for the department claiming that Apple's conspiring with publishers cost customers hundreds of millions of dollars. The case, which was filed more than a year ago, accuses Apple [Reuters report] of working with major publishers to increase the price of their e-books. Five publishers, Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C., Simon & Schuster Inc., Penguin Group (USA) Inc. and Macmillan [JURIST reports], were named in the complaint, but have since reached a settlement with the government. Apple continues to maintain it was simply acting in the company's interest and not doing anything illegal. However, the government claims this was a conspiracy to raise prices so that Apple could have a larger share of the e-book market.

Late last month Judge Denise Cote gave her tentative opinion [JURST report] that the government will be successful in their claim. The DOJ alleged that Apple, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster [corporate websites] conspired to fix the prices of e-books in response to Amazon's discount pricing strategy. The DOJ brought the suit in April 2012, and the court denied a motion to dismiss [JURIST reports] in May. Commentators had been very mixed in response to the proposed settlement agreement. Some commentators have suggested that the DOJ's lawsuit is merely "superficial" [JURIST op-ed] and that the effect of the agency agreements may actually have been a net-positive to consumers if Amazon was selling e-books at a loss in order to drive the sale of Kindles.

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