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The US complaint against Apple and e-book publishers

We have the full PDF of the Department of Justice's submission.

The US Department of Justice has released its complaint against Apple and the six publishers of e-books who, it alleges, conspired to fix e-book prices.

Starting on page five of the PDF, it lays out its full allegation:

3. Publishers saw the rise in e-books, and particularly Amazon's price discounting, as a substantial challenge to their traditional business model. The Publisher Defendants feared that lower retail prices for e-books might lead eventually to lower wholesale prices for e-books, lower prices for print books, or other consequences the publishers hoped to avoid. Each Publisher Defendant desired higher retail e-book prices across the industry before "$9.99" became an entrenched consumer expectation. By the end of 2009, however, the Publisher Defendants had concluded that unilateral efforts to move Amazon away from its practice of offering low retail prices would not work, and they thereafter conspired to raise retail e-book prices and to otherwise limit competition in the sale of e-books. . .

[4.] As a result of discussions with the Publisher Defendants, Apple learned that the Publisher Defendants shared a common objective with Apple to limit e-book retail price competition, and that the Publisher Defendants also desired to have popular e-book retail prices stabilize at levels significantly higher than $9.99. Together, Apple and the Publisher Defendants reached an agreement whereby retail price competition would cease (which all the conspirators desired), retail e-book prices would increase significantly (which the Publisher Defendants desired), and Apple would be guaranteed a 30 percent "commission" on each e-book it sold (which Apple desired). . .

6. Apple facilitated the Publisher Defendants' collective effort to end retail price competition by co-ordinating their transition to an agency model across all retailers. Apple clearly understood that its participation in this scheme would result in higher prices to consumers. As Apple CEO Steve Jobs described his company's strategy for negotiating with the Publisher Defendants, "We'll go to [an] agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30 per cent, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that's what you want anyway." Apple was perfectly willing to help the Publisher Defendants obtain their objective of higher prices for consumers by ending Amazon's "$9.99" price program as long as Apple was guaranteed its 30 percent margin and could avoid retail price competition from Amazon.

7. The plan - what Apple proudly described as an "aikido move" - worked.

The circumstantial evidence doesn't look great for the publishers either:

40. In September 2008, Penguin Group CEO John Makinson was joined by Macmillan CEO John Sargent and the CEOs of the other four large publishers at a dinner meeting in "The Chefs Wine Cellar," a private room at Picholene [sic. Actually called Picholine]. One ofthe CEOs reported that business matters were discussed.

41. In January 2009, the CEO of one Publisher Defendant, a United States subsidiary of a European corporation, promised his corporate superior, the CEO of the parent company, that he would raise the future ofe-books and Amazon's potential role in that future at an upcoming meeting of publisher CEOs. Later that month, at a dinner meeting hosted by Penguin Group CEO John Makinson, again in "The Chefs Wine Cellar" at Picholene, the same group of publisher CEOs met once more.

Via Marco Arment

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.