Big-name publishers have filed a legal brief in opposition to the Department of Justice’s recent ruling that condemned Apple’s e-book pricing policies. According to the brief the DoJ is acting to “impose a specific business model on the publishing industry” and that’s just terrible.
The DoJ’s ruling demanded that Apple end its current preferential agreements with five U.S.-based publishers because they effectively constitute a conspiracy to fix prices. The DoJ further demanded that Apple let other e-book retailers link to their stores from inside their apps. Apple currently places a ban on such linking because it may allow retailers to skirt its universally applied 30% fee rule. The DoJ’s ruling has led to a lot of speculation that the government is trying to meddle in the affairs of one of the world’s biggest companies.
HarperCollins and the rest of the publishers named in the new complaint say the ruling absolutely doesn’t limit Apple’s price-setting habits and that they forbid companies from making deals with Apple that may preserve their business by chosing their own prices–whether the deal is with Apple or another vendor like Amazon. This hints at the real thrust of the new brief: Amazon is seen as a big threat to publishers because it can force e-book prices to artificially low levels in order to attract consumers. The New York Times pointed out that, when the DoJ announced its investigation, Amazon already controlled 60% of the e-book market and could afford to sell every e-title at a loss in order to increase its market share.