Apple Faces Setback in E-Books Case

At this point nobody really believes that Steve Jobs was nothing more than an altruistic innovator just looking to put the products of the future into the hands of the public today. And neither is Apple, Inc. the family store on the corner. It’s a mega-corporation and the products it designs are intended for one purpose: to make money. If the goods it produces happen to be so incredible that they put the competition out of business (and they have in some cases), then so much the better. But to say that Jobs and his company were actively involved in a conspiracy meant to bilk consumers by raising the price of e-books could be a little far-fetched. And yet, the antitrust case launched by the federal government last year alleges just that, and Apple wasn’t the only company targeted by the Justice Department for this apparent scam on consumers.

The skinny on this suit, according to Manhattan-based U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, is that “Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books.” Further, it is alleged that Apple conspired with a number of publishers and media outlets to stop popular e-book retailers like Amazon from setting the price point for these items. It is as yet unclear how they intended to do this, although it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that they probably planned to withhold product (which is to say e-books) from any retailer that refused to sell at the publishers’ set price point. Apple, of course, has fired back at their accusers, saying that all they have done in the e-book marketplace is inject some “much-needed competition and innovation”, which one could take to mean that they were trying to get a toehold on a market that is clearly dominated by Amazon.

In any case, Apple is willing to go to court with a jury-less trial set to start on June 3rd and expected to last several weeks. Other companies listed in the suit included well-known book publishers and their parent companies, including HarperCollins (owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.), Simon & Schuster (a subsidiary of CBS), and Penguin (a branch of Pearson PLC), amongst others. In an interesting twist, all have settled, leaving Apple the only man standing, so to speak. Of even further interest is the fact that both sides seem intent on using Steve Jobs’ email correspondence as evidence to support their view of the events in question. But it’s all up to the interpretation of the judge. And so far she is saying that she cannot make any kind of ruling without hearing the testimony in the case, although many of her statements seem to favor the claims made by the DoJ.

Apple, for its part, appears prepared to go full speed ahead. Said the company’s lead lawyer, Orin Snyder, “…the evidence at trial will determine the verdict.” And he seems to be toeing the company line with claims that Apple’s intention has always been to benefit consumers. So the battle lines have been drawn and it’s anyone’s guess who wields more power and influence: Apple or the federal government. My money is on the government…they’ve been around longer. However, we might not know the outcome for several weeks yet. So you’ll just have to¬†check this site and that for news regarding the progression of this case.

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