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DOJ defends its Apple lawsuit

After public complaints by Sen. Charles Schumer and others, the DOJ says it's not wavering in its lawsuit against Apple and five major US publishers.

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As reported in previous posts on the suit, three publishers – HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster – have agreed to settle the DOJ suit while Apple, Penguin, and Macmillan continue to fight the charges. The settlement with the first three publishers was opened to public comment, bringing a deluge of responses from individuals and groups including the Authors Guild, independent publishers, Barnes & Noble, literary agents, and Apple itself, which has long argued that the DOJ’s suit will endanger e-book retailers and distributors alike and result in Amazon’s market domination.

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The DOJ called fears of an Amazon monopoly “speculative at best” and pointed out that Barnes & Noble had already captured part of Amazon’s e-book market share long before the agency model was introduced.

“In the pre-conspiracy competitive market, innovation, discounting, and marketing were robust,” the DOJ said in its response. “In contrast, the conspiracy eliminated any number of potential procompetitive innovations, such as 'all-you-can-read' subscription services, book club pricing specials, and rewards programs.'”

Not only is its suit legitimate, the DOJ asserted in its response, it’s also already reaped positive changes in the industry. Since the settlement was announced, “more companies are investing to enter or expand in the market and compete against Amazon, Apple, and other e-book retailers,” the DOJ claimed in its response, citing Microsoft’s investment in Barnes & Noble and forthcoming tablets from Microsoft and Google.

Adding insult to injury, the DOJ said much of the criticism it received on its proposed settlement “expressed a general frustration ...  from the evolving nature of the publishing industry – in which the growing popularity of e-books is placing pressure on the prevailing model that is built on physical supply chains and brick-and-mortar stores.”

The DOJ is resolute in its suit and proposed settlement, but we’re pretty sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear from Apple, either.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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