On Trial: US paints Apple as ‘ringmaster’ in its e-book lawsuit

In its suit,the US government said that Apple and the publishers conspired to fix e-book prices as part of a scheme to force Amazon to raise its e-book price from a uniform $9.99 to the higher level noted by Jobs in the e-mail,which publishers wanted.

Written by New York Times | Washington | Published: May 16, 2013 3:16:46 am

The e-mail,from Steve Jobs of Apple to James Murdoch of News Corporation,reads as if one old sport were trying to cajole another into joining a caper: “Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream e-books market at $12.99 and $14.99.”

According to the US Justice Department,that e-mail is part of the evidence that Apple was the “ringmaster” in a price-fixing conspiracy in the market for e-books,a more direct leadership role than originally portrayed in the department’s April 2012 antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five publishing companies.

In its suit,the US government said that Apple and the publishers conspired to fix e-book prices as part of a scheme to force Amazon to raise its e-book price from a uniform $9.99 to the higher level noted by Jobs in the e-mail,which publishers wanted.

That,the department said,resulted in higher prices to consumers and ill-gotten profits for Apple and its partners. The e-mail was released on Tuesday as part of the government’s filing before the trial in the case,set to begin on June 3 in New York.

Two days after Jobs’s e-mail to Murdoch,HarperCollins,the publishing company owned by News Corporation,signed an agreement with Apple to force all sellers of electronic books to adopt the new pricing model,the government said.

Apple is the only defendant left in the lawsuit after five publishing companies — Hachette,HarperCollins,Macmillan,Penguin and Simon & Schuster — agreed last year and earlier this year to settle the charges.

Tom Neumayr,an Apple spokesman said the company did not conspire to fix prices. “We helped transform the e-book market with the introduction of the iBookstore in 2010,bringing consumers an expanded selection of e-books and delivering innovative new features.”

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