The eBook conspiracy comes to a close

A typical conception of antitrust laws is that they protect consumers from monopolies, preserving competition at the expense of the biggest, most prominent player in a given market. But that’s not always the case, The New Yorker reports. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote ruled, in a hundred-and-sixty-page opinion, that Apple had conspired with five of North America’s largest book publishers in a scheme to raise and fix e-book prices, violating Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. A major beneficiary of the decision, Amazon, is not only one of the largest, most influential companies in technology but also the dominant company in bookselling. And, though Apple has said it will appeal Cote’s ruling, Wednesday’s decision likely ensures that Amazon will remain on top for the foreseeable future. … Damningly, in her ruling, Cote noted that Hachette’s C.E.O., Arnaud Nourry, had, during the negotiations with Apple, observed “that the goal of these ventures is ‘less to compete with Amazon than to force it to accept a price level higher than 9.99.’ ” HarperCollins, the ruling says, understood that the result of their agreement “is that Apple would control price and that price would be standard across the industry.” The fact that Apple promised higher prices is part of what doomed its case. “It’s not clear that Apple had any interest in raising prices,” said Randy Picker, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, who taught a class on the case this past fall.

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