Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Judge Rules Apple Colluded With Publishers to Fix Ebook Prices

Unknown Lamer posted 1 year,11 days | from the captains-of-industry dept.

Books 383

Despite many publishers themselves settling with the DOJ over allegations of price fixing ebooks, Apple held firm and recently went to trial. And now the verdict is in: Apple conspired with major publishers to control ebook prices in violation of anti-trust laws. A trial for damages has been ordered. Quoting Reuters: "The decision by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan is a victory for the U.S. government and various states, which the judge said are entitled to injunctive relief. ... Cote said the conspiracy resulted in prices for some e-books rising to $12.99 or $14.99, when Amazon had sold for $9.99. 'The plaintiffs have shown that the publisher defendants conspired with each other to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise e-book prices, and that Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy,' Cote said. 'Without Apple's orchestration of this conspiracy, it would not have succeeded as it did in the spring of 2010,' she added." Update: 07/10 16:36 GMT by U L : The ruling is now available (160 page PDF).

cancel ×

383 comments

and yet Amazon is raising prices now (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44237931)

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/05/business/as-competition-wanes-amazon-cuts-back-its-discounts.html?hpw&_r=0 [nytimes.com]

As Competition Wanes, Amazon Cuts Back Discounts
By DAVID STREITFELD, NY Times
Published: July 4, 2013

"Jim Hollock’s first book, a true-crime tale set in Pennsylvania, got strong reviews and decent sales when it appeared in 2011. Now “Born to Lose” is losing momentum — yet Amazon, to the writer’s intense frustration, has increased the price by nearly a third.

Jim Hollock wrote a true-crime story set in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Hollock’s first book had decent sales when it appeared in 2011, but now that it is losing momentum, Amazon raised the price.

“At this point, people need an inducement,” said Mr. Hollock, a retired corrections official. “But instead of lowering the price, Amazon is raising it.”

Other writers and publishers have the same complaint. They say Amazon, which became the biggest force in bookselling by discounting so heavily it often lost money, has been cutting back its deals for scholarly and small-press books. That creates the uneasy prospect of a two-tier system where some books are priced beyond an audience’s reach."

permanent sale not illegal in USA? (4, Interesting)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238059)

around here you can't have a product listed on "sale"(as in firesale or whatever) permanently.. why? because it's deceiving. if it's never at the normal price then there's never a special sale price... just the usual price. so if something is 10% or 20% off permanently, all the time, it's just a trick to fool the customer and therefore there are statuary limits on how long a sale can last..

Re:permanent sale not illegal in USA? (2)

LeadSongDog (1120683) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238455)

There are statuary limits, but they're not carved in stone.

Re:and yet Amazon is raising prices now (5, Insightful)

LordLucless (582312) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238065)

Maybe because it's not illegal to change your prices?

And it's authors who are complaining? Authors are the ones who control the supply - if they're upset about other people controlling the pricing of their work, then maybe they shouldn't have sold that right off. The barrier to entry for distributing e-books is minuscule - if an author wants to maintain control over the distribution of their work, there is absolutely nothing stopping them these days.

Re:and yet Amazon is raising prices now (5, Insightful)

BemoanAndMoan (1008829) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238891)

if they're upset about other people controlling the pricing of their work, then maybe they shouldn't have sold that right off. The barrier to entry for distributing e-books is minuscule - if an author wants to maintain control over the distribution of their work, there is absolutely nothing stopping them these days.

Wow, just no barrier to stupidity on the internet, is there. Do you realize how fantastically low the success rate is for e-books? No distribution, no public awareness, no marketing ... other than the seventeen people following you on twitter. I'm not saying publishers go out of their way to push every book (far, far from it) but without a physical presence on the bookshelves you chance of getting noticed or even an ounce of publicity is fantastically low.

Your suggestion is akin to suggesting a farmer open a fruit stand instead of working with wholesalers.

At this point you will likely point out one or two of those exceptions as some sort of straw man argument. Me, I've just worked in and around the industry for decades (on both sides).

Authors control the supply ... I'm going to laugh about that one for a while.

Re:and yet Amazon is raising prices now (0)

jspoon (585173) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238075)

The NYT article is about dead tree books. The whole case is baffling though, given the unchallenged dominance Amazon enjoyed in the ebook market at the time, which Apple, B&N, etc have barely chipped into since. Also, most people who even casually follow developments in the field would tell you Amazon intends to run the publishing industry into the ground as soon as its convenient.

Re:and yet Amazon is raising prices now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238561)

Good diversionary post from Apple shill or fanboi.

"Nothing to see here, look what some other company is doing instead".

Abusing their monopoly power (1, Troll)

TWiTfan (2887093) | 1 year,11 days | (#44237967)

So I guess now all those people who said that Apple bundling their browser with their OS is okay (because, unlike MS, they've not been found guilty of abusing their monopoly) are now going to reverse their stance and admit that Apple is evil too, huh?

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238039)

First off, no company evil and it can't be. A company isn't sentient, the people are. That said, they are different products that are in no way related. Microsoft was convicted because they bundled the browser, Apple was not. You can't compare the two.

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238113)

Apple is an entity many millions of people worship, it's a religion. Apple should not have been found guilty, Steve Jobs should have. But how do you prosecute and incarcerate dead people?

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238121)

A company isn't sentient, the people are.

True.

And the people running Apple are thieving scum who conspired to jack up prices.

Ah! No, that is not the case. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238233)

First off, no company evil and it can't be. A company isn't sentient, the people are.

Group dynamics, dude.

Groups act like a single entity - case in point military. It has been shown time and time again, put a person in a uniform and have them identify with the organization and you can get them to do just about anything. The Nazis were expert at this. (I will bitch slap the first person who improperly invokes Godwin's law on this!)

It's the same with a company. When folks are working for a company, they identify with that company. That's why when speaking to a representative of a company and you slight the company - not them personally - many times they'll get irate as if you DID insult them.

If a company "culture" can be just a like a personality. I mean, why is that the cell providers, satellite tv, airlines, and cable companies, even though they are made up of individuals, treat their customers like garbage and have no problems ripping them off?

It's because of a company personality or "culture".

So, yes a company CAN be Evil.

Re:Ah! No, that is not the case. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238327)

No, a company cannot be evil. Each and every one of the members of the company can, but the company cannot. A company doesn't exist without people

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238695)

A company/corporation has most of the same rights as a person (and very few of the legal responsibilities that go with it) but that is irrelevant.

If the policies and actions taken by a company are evil then the company is evil.

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238887)

Policies and actions are not taken by a company, they are taken by people. Does "the company" decide to do something against the wishes of every single person that is a part of it? No, it can't. If I intentionally run over a person with my car, is my car evil or am I?

I don't care what rights a corporation has. Corporate personhood is a bullshit concept that shouldn't even be given the light of day.

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (2, Funny)

Ensign_Expendable (1045224) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238083)

OK. Apple is evil. Happy?

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238135)

Thats completely OK, just like Google is extremely evil.

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238325)

Evil, by telling you what they're doing and you voluntarily doing choosing their products (which you can export the data out any time)? Explain.

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238555)

Really? Did they tell you they were giving the NSA full access to your email?

STFU.

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (1, Troll)

Cid Highwind (9258) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238085)

"TWiTfan", eh.

John C. Dvorak, is that you? Still trying to rile the Mac fanboys after 30 years?

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (1)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238181)

"Monopoly power" - I don't think that phrase means what you think it means. A lot of people want their products and buy them. So they have sold a lot of products, and they are popular. How does this observation turn into the claim that they now have a "monopoly" or "power" over the people - are people not free to choose other products, or start up competing products/services? Do people have a right to their products?

Compare so-called private "trusts" to real-life monopolies with actual power (threat of physical force via government). How are they equivalent? Will Apple throw me in jail if I buy a PC? If not, then what "power" do they really have over me?

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (2, Interesting)

evilRhino (638506) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238497)

I would argue that "monopoly power" is the ability of *one* player to reset the price above the what would normally be a market price. Since the deal Apple brokered among publishers raised the cost of ebooks across all platforms, the term should apply here.

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (1)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238547)

So what is the correct market price for ebooks in all contexts and everywhere on Earth? If that is not known, then how can you claim that these prices are set "above" that value? Why are some voluntary transactions between individuals considered "artificial", while others are valid?

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (2)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238781)

I don't know what the correct shape of a potato is, but if one plopped out of a big potato-making machine in front of me I'd be quite justified in calling it artificial.

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (0)

evilRhino (638506) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238235)

Safari is freeware and partially open source. If it makes you happy, you can add $0 to the fee to the price for a Mac. I don't need to reverse stance on Apple. They are no more evil than the leading psychopathic multinational corporation who only follow the rules if the cost of compliance is lower than the penalty for non-compliance.

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238847)

So I guess now all those people who said that Apple bundling their browser with their OS is okay (because, unlike MS, they've not been found guilty of abusing their monopoly) are now going to reverse their stance and admit that Apple is evil too, huh?

No because apple is not in a monopoly position. Microsoft was convicted not just because they bundled a browser but because in doing so they tried to use their monopoly in the desktop to try and gain a monopoly in another market. this is what is called abuse of monopoly.

apple is evil but it is not evil for the same reasons as microsoft.

Re:Abusing their monopoly power (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238929)

So I guess now all those people who said that Apple bundling their browser with their OS is okay (because, unlike MS, they've not been found guilty of abusing their monopoly) are now going to reverse their stance and admit that Apple is evil too, huh?

Um... no. Anyone defending Apple with THAT much dedication is utterly baffled as to how anyone could find Apple guilty of anything, let alone something involving the misuse of pricing (which Apple NEVER EVER EVER NEVER EVER overcharges for, nooooooo). Thus, those people will just ratchet up the evangelizing of The Ascended Almighty Saint Steve in the hopes that this will gain them more converts.

shortchanged again (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44237971)

judge was biased from the beginning and had found them guilty before the trial even started.

Re:shortchanged again (0, Flamebait)

keltor (99721) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238035)

This is 100% true. I don't think I've ever seen a Judge say something like this one did. Seem 100% guarantee of a new trial upon apeal.

Re:shortchanged again (3, Informative)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238971)

This is 100% true. I don't think I've ever seen a Judge say something like this one did. Seem 100% guarantee of a new trial upon apeal.

Not true. His statement was at a hearing to decide if the case would be thrown out because of lack of evidence. The Judge simply stated the feds had evidence. The Judge made his statement because Apple asked for his opinion at that point. He was required by law to say something.

Re:shortchanged again (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238069)

look, just because iSteve was dumb enough to admit to the conspiracy to the guy writing his biography doesn't give him a free pass.

"stupid" has never been a successful defense in court.

one step in a series. (1, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238063)

now if we can just get a judge to rule the fundamental concept of an "e-book" is bullshit and nothing more than an encumbered text document designed to peddle locked down e-garbage hardware and fleece the ignorant.

Re:one step in a series. (0)

ArsonSmith (13997) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238169)

Or if we could just get people to pay what they feel something is worth....or is that what they are doing? If you don't like the price don't buy it.

Re:one step in a series. (4, Insightful)

RenderSeven (938535) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238221)

Indeed a 'book' is nothing but an encumbered text document stored on paper. Which I guess you would call 'p-garbage' by the same logic, and the printing press is nothing but a big expensive copy prevention device.

Re:one step in a series. (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238339)

The "fundimental concept of an e-book" is a document format intended for distributing books*; it has nothing to do with DRM and we were using the term back when your go-to standalone reader was a Palm PDA. Rage against the DRM, do but get the facts right.

*There's a reason we don't just use multi-megabyte Word files.

Re:one step in a series. (5, Informative)

Nemyst (1383049) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238347)

An e-book is a specially formatted text document which includes additional metadata making it easier to use on specialized e-book readers. Nothing more, nothing less. If you actually shop around, as opposed to just grabbing a Kindle, you'll notice that a lot of stores (and certain publishers in particular) do not put DRM on some books (I'm particularly impressed by Tor, who almost always have DRM-free copies available). DRM isn't fundamentally part of the "e-book", even though your post implies that publishers have successfully convinced you that it is.

Re:one step in a series. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | 1 year,11 days | (#44239057)

now if we can just get a judge to rule the fundamental concept of an "e-book" is bullshit and nothing more than an encumbered text document designed to peddle locked down e-garbage hardware and fleece the ignorant.

I asked the same thing sitting on Santa's lap last Christmas. He told me he was an "atheist" and he would be pressing charges for the things my ass said to his lap.

Almost not news (5, Insightful)

DeathToBill (601486) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238093)

Hard to see how this was ever going any other way when the publishers involved all settled, including admissions of guilt in the settlement. According the the BBC, Apple will 'appeal against the ruling and fight "false allegations".' Apple has now definitively departed from the reality-based community.

Re:Almost not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238147)

" Apple has now definitively departed from the reality-based community."

Really? I thought this happened a long time ago.

Re:Almost not news (0)

DeathToBill (601486) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238387)

Well, I said "definitively" because if they hadn't already, this makes it definite. But you are probably right.

Re:Almost not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238205)

Actually I checked the encoding of this page

<title>Judge Rules Apple Colluded With Publishers to Fix Ebook Prices - Slashdot</title>
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">

Time to update your signature?

Re:Almost not news (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238285)

Let's try some Chinese text then:

Re:Almost not news (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238301)

Nope, still no non-Latin-1 characters allowed.

Re:Almost not news (1)

xaxa (988988) | 1 year,11 days | (#44239045)

I think € is allowed.

Re:Almost not news (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238585)

Why do they even bother crying "false allegations." Are their consumers out there who were awaiting the results of this trial to determine if they were going to buy an iphone or an android? Are stock brokers saying "SELL SELL SELL... wait... Oh, nevermind, apple says the court is wrong. We don't need to dump the stock."

Re:Almost not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238905)

Huh, turns out the Reality Distortion Field is self-sustaining.

Why shouldn't they be free to decide their prices? (-1, Troll)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238103)

Why is it the government's business what prices individuals freely choose to set for their products? Do buyers have a right to buy their products at a certain price? Who is being more "greedy" - the seller who asks a certain price, or the buyer who demands one via government force?

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238191)

Wait, are you seriously so far gone that you're claiming collusion and price-fixing are good things for a free market? Adam Smith didn't even think that.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (0)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238269)

Ignoring the ad hominem and appeal to authority, all that's left is "are you ... claiming collusion and price-fixing are good things for a free market?", which is really a straw man since we do not have a free market. But regardless, I am only concerned with whether individual rights are being upheld or violated.

Please read a dictionary (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238621)

You are clueless and demonstrate it by your misapplication of the *fake* "catch-all rebuttal" of "Oh, that's just an ad-hom". Try an ACTUAL rebuttal.

"which is really a straw man since we do not have a free market"

So you're advocating that copyright be removed entirely?

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238197)

Oh shut the fuck up with your libertarian idiocy. This is a very clear case of supplier and distributor colluding to fuck over the general public. Apple specifically worked with publishers to raise prices and force those publishers to apply the arbitrarily raised prices evenly among all sales outlets. That's about as anti-consumer of a move as you can get, and they rightfully got called on it.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (-1, Troll)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238319)

Ignoring the various ad hominems, all that's left is - "Apple specifically worked with publishers to raise prices and force those publishers" - so which is it, did Apple voluntarily "work with" publishers to set prices, or did they "force" publishers? And if it's "force", by what means did they enforce it? Did they imprison publishers who did not accept their prices? If not, then what does this word "force" mean, exactly?

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (1)

moronoxyd (1000371) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238533)

You're trying to diffuse the point: he consumer got screwed. If practically all providers of a resource (all major book publishers) collude to fix the price the consumer has now choice.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (0)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238597)

the consumer got screwed

What do that mean? How? In what sense? Was your credit card charged without your permission?

the consumer has no choice.

No choice to start up a competing publishing firm? No choice to buy a physical book instead of an ebook? No choice to go to the library? No choice to use a different manufacturer's device to buy ebooks? No choice to not read the book? No choice to actually pay the price Apple set?

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238749)

What competing publishing firm? The heart of the issue is that all of the US's (and the world's) biggest publishers were part of the group. If even a few of them had defected there not only wouldn't have been anything illegal, the collusion would have failed because of competition.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (1)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238791)

I believe you misread my response, I was referring to the "choice to start up a competing publishing firm." Collusion at a price the market won't accept will fail as people won't buy the product, and the companies will lose money. If the market sees that the price could be lower, competing firms will start up to offer lower prices.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238869)

That's like arguing that if you don't like US law, you can just start up your own country. There's no ground to plant it on, not enough people to start it with, and you have no power with which to defend yourself. As you can see for yourself, the small publishers charging less didn't experience any significant growth when the collusion was in place, and sales did not suffer as one would expect from price elasticity. That strongly implies that normal market forces were overridden by the collusion.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44239039)

Collusion at a price the market won't accept will fail as people won't buy the product, and the companies will lose money. If the market sees that the price could be lower, competing firms will start up to offer lower prices.

And yet, this didn't happen. Consider that for a moment.

You should consider re-grounding your theory against observed evidence, rather than sticking to something that doesn't appear to accurately model reality. You'll notice that physicists all dropped the whole "luminiferous aether" model after the Michelson-Morely experiment, yes? It's funny that economists don't do the same thing when their own models directly contradict observation, but then I suppose that's why physics is a science and economics is not.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238211)

Sellers CAN set their prices, but not when ALL the sellers get together and artificially raise prices. Which is what was ruled as being orchestrated by Apple.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (2)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238369)

So if all but one seller sets a certain price, then they are free to do so, but that last one seller is not free to set that same price - then the rules of reality change?

I also do not understand this statement - "artificially raise prices". This assumes there is a correct price for a given product, that sellers know that correct price, and have chosen not to use it. Is that what you are claiming? In a market, the "correct price" is what a buyer and seller are freely willing to agree to, so you could not determine in advance of the actual transaction what price is correct.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238245)

The problem is collusion. You are not allowed to negotiate with all the other publishers to keep the price artificially high. If you do that, the free market can't do it's job.

It's not that the government is setting the price. They are preventing the publishers from setting a price artifically.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (1)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238407)

You are not allowed to negotiate with all the other publishers to keep the price artificially high. If you do that, the free market can't do it's job.

So individuals are not allowed to be free, otherwise they will violate eachothers freedoms - by freely and voluntarily agreeing to specific trading requirements?

There is no such thing as an "artificial price", as there is no such thing as a "correct price" for any given product.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238551)

Soooo.... shouldn't Amazon be free to set whatever price they choose for what they sell? But, oh, wait, Apple colluded with publishers to set up a market that forced a particular price on Amazon. So, yes, you are right: Retailers should be free to choose what price they sell for, and disrupting this is specifically what Apple is being whacked for.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (2)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238649)

shouldn't Amazon be free to set whatever price they choose for what they sell?

So long as they are not violating any of the voluntary agreements they made with the companies that provide them with their inventory, of course. If Amazon does not like their prices, they do not need to stock their products in its inventory.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238675)

Your idea of a free market is "we make the decisions, but you're free to leave"? What is this, the USSR?

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238657)

If you're all following exactly the same plan, for the same objective, you're no longer individuals. You're a single entity. (As far as the market goes.) When that single entity is effectively the entire ebook market, then you have a market controlled by fiat.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (1)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238757)

If you're all following exactly the same plan, for the same objective, you're no longer individuals. You're a single entity. (As far as the market goes.)

That is irrelevant to the primary consideration of respecting individual rights. If individuals voluntarily agree with eachother and follow the same free trading plan, they do not forfeit their individual rights to be free to make such agreements.

When that single entity is effectively the entire ebook market, then you have a market controlled by fiat.

"Fiat" - that word does not mean what you think it means. There is no government-enforced decree that forces anyone to buy ebooks. You will not go to jail for buying a competing product - such as a real book, or starting your own publishing firm, or going to the library, or just deciding you don't need that book.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238805)

In case you didn't notice, this isn't about the rights of an individual, it's about the rights of an extraordinarily large group.

I don't think you know what fiat means.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238267)

Because, tovarich, this is Obama's AMEÑIKA!

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (5, Informative)

Nemyst (1383049) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238401)

You don't understand what collusion is, do you? The sellers specifically conspired together to artificially raise prices, which bypasses the normal supply and demand pricing and allows them to do whatever the hell they wish. If we'd actually allow such a thing, you'd see a lot of goods suddenly inflate in price for no reason whatsoever because by colluding corporations can lock you out of any alternative. Collusion breaks the principle of a free market by removing competition.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (-1, Redundant)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238503)

You lost me at "artificially raise prices" - is there a correct price for ebooks, regardless of context? What is it? If there isn't one, then how can you determine that a given price is "artificially high"? Why are certain voluntary agreements between individuals valid, but others are considered "artificial"?

allows them to do whatever the hell they wish

Except force the customer to buy their product. If buyers don't want to pay those prices, they won't, and Apple will suffer the consequences. Price is what the buyer and seller freely agree upon. The price tag a seller puts on products is just the "ask price". It is not until a buyer comes along and "bids" to accept that "ask price" that the price is determined - but that price is only valid for that specific trade.

Collusion breaks the principle of a free market by removing competition.

So others are not free to start up competing services? Who is enforcing that?

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (2)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238723)

An artificial price is one decided by fiat and not by market forces. By definition, when a trade group decides on a single price, that's an artificial price.

There are no others to set up competing services in this context; the group that decided the prices is composed of every major publisher in the United States.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (0)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238989)

An artificial price is one decided by fiat and not by market forces.

Which market force(s) are you referring to? Do you mean the buyer and seller agreeing to a price? Is that not happening in this situation?

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238755)

You lost me at "artificially raise prices" - is there a correct price for ebooks, regardless of context? What is it? If there isn't one, then how can you determine that a given price is "artificially high"? Why are certain voluntary agreements between individuals valid, but others are considered "artificial"?

if, by some weird chance, 17 different publishers were to COMPLETELY INDEPENDENTLY decide that $9.95 was the price point for a book, then there is no collusion.

If on the other hand, those same publishers were to all talk it over among themselves and decide that they'd ALL sell their product at $9.95, that's collusion.

See the difference?

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (-1, Flamebait)

brian0918 (638904) | 1 year,11 days | (#44239023)

See the difference?

As regards individual rights, there is no difference, so there should be no difference before the law.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238957)

Collusion was never shown. The publishers were never shown to get together on pricing.

Apple had conversations with each publisher individually. Reflected in the different agreements for each publisher.

So, what's the problem then?

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238475)

Individuals can set their prices however they want, because they're heterogeneous and competing, i.e. the marketplace is free. A single group cannot be permitted to control an entire market, because that market is no longer free.

Re:Why shouldn't they be free to decide their pric (1)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238683)

hmm.. they could have set their prices higher as individuals, but they didn't.

it's when they form a cartel and decide to do it as a cartel that it becomes a problem with the law. they might just as well have merged into a single monopoly corporation, that would then have been broken up.

Monopoly power (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238715)

When a single firm or person is so powerful that they control the market, consumers have no alternative. Thus, this person can charge prices at a level that is abusive to consumers and also can exclude new entrants from the market. The result is a lowered quality of life for citizens, and a more sluggish economy that can't respond to change.

Apple assholes (0, Flamebait)

minstrelmike (1602771) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238105)

Apple wanted to take over the publishing biz the same way they took over the music biz but with their snobby hardware attitude. Marketing elite feelings to people who buy Macs is one thing.

Trying to raise the price of everything in the marketplace isn't just elitist attitude, it is illegal, and also anti-Adam Smith.

Apple should have known they could sell more books if they sold them cheaper (just like mp3s) but since many execs write books, they have that same elitist attitude NY Times folks have, thinking they set the standard when the real standard for American popular 'news' writing is the National Enquirer.

Re:Apple assholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238417)

It's not anti-Adam Smith ("each man for himself") but very anti John Nash.

Re: Apple assholes (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238461)

This was really no different than how music labels ganged up with Amazon to lock down terms against Apple a few years back. Then Apple had to make the price of songs go up to get the same terms the labels all gave Amazon... Yet no lawsuit there?

Re:Apple assholes (1)

organgtool (966989) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238525)

Apple should have known they could sell more books if they sold them cheaper

Apple's goal is not to sell as many books as possible. Their goal is to make as much money as possible selling books. Selling higher quantities does not mean more profit if you can sell smaller quantities with significantly higher margins. That's Business 101 and there's nothing wrong with that. Their problem was that they drank too much of their own Kool-Aid and thought they could get away with colluding with the publishers to fix prices so that they could sell at high margins and not be undercut by businesses such as Amazon that sell at lower margins.

Re:Apple assholes (2)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238541)

You understand that this isn't Apple vs the "publishing biz", right? The publishers were in on it from beginning to end and were set to profit handsomely from the arrangement.

Re:Apple assholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238581)

If by take over you mean drag kicking and screaming in to the internet age.
Apple, like with the music industry, wanted to play ball. The publishers just left apple holding the bag.

This ruling won't survive an appeal.

Re:Apple assholes (2)

sasparillascott (1267058) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238593)

Well, its always best to know the actual details of what was going on. The problem was that Amazon was selling its "e-books" (i.e. Kindle) versions of books for well below their cost they paid to the publishers to buy them. Several years into this Amazon also started its own publishing arm. In the end, assuming Amazon would demand low pricing like they were selling e-books for or not sell them (after all other large scale sellers had been eliminated) this would likely bankrupt and destroy much of the publishing industry (the industry and Apple could see this) - leaving Amazon with sales and much of the publishing to itself (a monopoly).

Apple talked with the publishers and said we want to sell e-books, but since they are electronic they need to be cheaper than the paper based versions, but the publishers have to make enough to be around (as nobody wants to just have Amazon destroy the publishing industry and be the only large scale publisher/seller of books in the U.S. - monopolies tend to not work out well for the consumer in the end).

So Apple was proposing lower prices for e-book versions, but the publishers would force Amazon to not sell their Kindle versions at a loss. This was illegal to coordinate & price fix like this, but it didn't raise the prices of e-books the publishers were selling, it lowered them (as they were selling them for the same price as paper versions to distributors, including Amazon, before hand - Amazon was just selling their e-books at large losses, presumably to destroy their competitors in the large scale book sales market & possibly with an eye to eventually corner the market in the publishing industry).

margin free RDF (1)

epine (68316) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238711)

Apple should have known they could sell more books if they sold them cheaper

Who said they didn't? Apple also knows that you can't peddle a reality distortion field on Korean margins. If their RDF springs a leak in one line of business, the hole could enlarge by the forces of erosion to engulf the entire company. Rest assured Google and the Koreans are dumping abrasive powders into the Apple watershed. I think it was a foregone conclusion that Apple's RDF business model would eventually strike this iceberg once they departed the safe harbour of boutique appliances. The tactical advantage of breaking the law to limit the oxygen supply to more nimble competitors during the nascent phase of the eBook market likely outweighs whatever legal penalties they now face.

Popular music has a cultural cachet that lends itself to the iTunes business model. How well has that model worked for classical music? The majority of books are more like classical music than a mass hormonal right of passage.

What's going to happen (5, Interesting)

bobstreo (1320787) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238125)

Everybody who ever bought any number of books will get a single $1-5 credit toward buying another book. States and Federal government will collect
millions of dollars and fines.

Re:What's going to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238491)

What about the lawyers? Where's their payday? No-one ever thinks of the poor starving lawyers... :(

Non-Apple books (1)

phorm (591458) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238991)

Everybody who ever bought any number of books will get a single $1-5 credit toward buying another book

How would that work? Part of the issue is that this collusion drove up prices on other eBook sellers. So unless Apple has to pay out to people bought books on Amazon, etc, it's probably just going to be fines.

Funny that (1)

scdeimos (632778) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238231)

The price increase is about 30%. Apple's commission on all sales through iTunes, perhaps?

As an Apple user, I am looking for alternatives (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238277)

This is just plain ugly.

Personally, a lot of what Apple has done recently is not acceptable,
from changes to the OS to choices of hardware configuration such
as no antiglare screen on the small Macbook Pro.

Tim Cook was a mistake of choice to lead the company, and he will
drive it into the ground, just wait and see.

Re:As an Apple user, I am looking for alternatives (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238389)

Yawn. You've never owned an Apple product in your life.

Re:As an Apple user, I am looking for alternatives (1)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238571)

Alternative to Apple's ebooks? They're called "books"

Re:As an Apple user, I am looking for alternatives (1)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238813)

if this stuff was a problem for you, then you would have jumped ship long time ago.

this doesn't have that much to do with cook anyways, does it?

"free market" at work (0, Troll)

Jawnn (445279) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238421)

Hands off, you socialist regulators. If you want lower e-book prices build your own giant company, Then buy or crush enough of the competition to gain an effective hegemony and then don't squeeze the customers. Feel free. Just stop trying to inject things like fairness into our God-given marketplace.

Backwards Capitalism (0)

sylivin (2964093) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238519)

The first major hurdle Apple had to explain is how, by adding another competitor, prices went *up.* As we see in almost every sector, as long as supply isn't restricted (such as with natural resources), a new competitor should always lower prices as they compete for the same amount of eyeballs. Prices wars can often be ruinious (see: the flat screen HDTV industry) and only those with the best supply chain and most competitive parts suppliers can hope to survive.

Apple did a pretty crappy job of explaining any of that and the DoJ just repeatedly pounded it home. In the end, this is good news for consumers and possibly authors as well. If self-publishing becomes more common they will see vastly more money in their pockets. Of course publishers do often provide important quality control roles, though if they can no longer promise exposure and production then we might see a steady move away from them. Perhaps a new independant review and editing industry will rise in the e-book industry for quality control purposes.. either that or a lot of people's crappy fan-fiction will end up at market.

I, for one, can't wait for a Edward and Jacob fan fiction love story to hit Amazon.

Additional news articles (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#44238605)

It looks like this has hit the press in a large way, which is why nearly every major technology site is covering it:

New York Times [nytimes.com]

CNN [cnn.com]

Reuters [reuters.com]

BBC [bbc.co.uk]

The end result of this decision should be to allow Amazon to continue selling ebooks at below cost if it wants to.

The punishment should fit the crime (4, Interesting)

macsimcon (682390) | 1 year,11 days | (#44238827)

I love Apple's products (no really, I do), and I make my living supporting them, but anticompetitive behavior is a crime against capitalism itself. It hurts us all. As soon as Apple entered the market, E-book prices went UP. If Apple had truly represented more competition, as they claimed in court, prices should have gone down. The prices went up because Apple illegally colluded with others to fix a higher price (perhaps so they could get their 30% cut). The court should fine Apple something meaningful. How about the $140B they have in cash? Distribute that to everyone who bought E-books. Or put Tim Cook in jail for anticompetitive behavior. No CEO would ever do anything anticompetitive again if they knew they might personally go to jail. I would even support a corporate death penalty for Apple if it sets a precedent: engage in anticompetitive behavior, and the government will terminate your company for good. White collar criminals are different from blue collar criminals in that they usually consider the consequences of getting caught. Only with serious and meaningful punishment can we stop anticompetitive behavior going forward. Let's begin with Apple.

Amazon should send Apple a gift basket (3, Interesting)

Dixie_Flatline (5077) | 1 year,11 days | (#44239003)

The way Amazon was doing business before this all went down was a sure-fire track to an anti-trust case. They priced books below their own wholesale costs to keep competitors out of the business (the margins on Kindles are pretty slim to nil; I don't think you can even call the cheap books a loss leader, since it just leads to more losses). They controlled (still control?) over 90% of the eBook business, and their DRM BS isn't even compatible with the DRM BS that other companies use. (I can buy books from the Kobo bookstore and use a Sony eReader, for instance. And vice versa. No such luck if I buy a Kindle book, though. I have to have a Kindle.)

Apple did Amazon a favour by stepping in and gathering the publishers together. Now Apple's lost a lawsuit, but as far as I know, the agency model will still persist. Amazon dodged a bullet there.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...