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Summary:

In a new pushback over its role in an ongoing e-book controversy, Apple said that Steve Jobs’ widely reported quotes on Amazon and book publishers “will speak for themselves.” The company also denied again that it conspired to fix e-book prices.

Apple (AAPL)
photo: Getty Images / Daniel Barry

In a new pushback over its role in an ongoing e-book controversy, Apple said that Steve Jobs’ widely reported quotes on Amazon and book publishers “will speak for themselves.” The company also denied once again that it conspired to fix prices.

Apple set out the claims in a legal filing this week that responds to a sprawling class action suit. The suit seeks millions on behalf of consumers who allegedly overpaid for e-books after Apple and publishers changed to agency pricing.

The new filing is part of a complicated legal two-step in which Apple and two publishers are fighting both Justice Department antitrust claims and a parallel suit in which class action lawyers and state governments seek money.

Apple’s latest arguments comes after a colorful filing last week in which it said the Justice Department’s case was “fundamentally flawed” and mischaracterized Steve Jobs’ description of an “akido move” on Amazon:

“Akido” is not a team sport like football with a quarterback directing the plays; it is a defensive martial art practiced one-on-one by individuals, requiring use of little strength or power, based on redirecting an attacker’s own force.

This week’s filing has less flair and instead sets out point-by-point refutations of the class action lawyers’ claims. The most notable of these addresses a famous episode in which Steve Jobs told a Wall Street Journal reporter that “Publishers are actually withholding their books from Amazon because they’re unhappy.” Apple says this statement and another account in which Jobs said “Amazon screwed it up” and “We pulled it off” will “speak for themselves.”

Apple also notes that a series of bilateral contracts it negotiated with the publishers in January of 2010 have similar terms but are not identical. The point is intended to emphasize that Apple didn’t quarterback a conspiracy.

The most intriguing part of Apple’s filing, however, comes at the conclusion. That’s where Apple suggests that the class action can’t go ahead in the first place because some publishers are already paying money to state governments to settle some of the claims. Apple says it would be unfair for both actions to go forward at the same time.

Apple and two of the five publishers who are still holding out (Macmillan and Penguin) face an uphill legal battle as a federal judge earlier this month emphatically refused to dismiss the case.

To learn more about what the fuss is about, see our “Everything you need to know about the e-book lawsuit in one post.” Also, legal lovers can check out the new filing for themselves below:

Apple Response to Class Action
(Image by Robert Kneschke via Shutterstock)

  1. Sti articoli a cazzo di cane!!

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  2. Bravo Apple!

    Over the long haul, the federal case is weak, particularly in light of the DOJ’s non-action against Amazon. Going after someone with a 0% market share (at the time) for price fixing, while ignoring Amazon’s 90% market share and bullying tactics looks very suspicious.

    I suspect the DOJ thought everyone in this dispute would roll over and settle out of court like several publishers did. That hasn’t happened. And I also suspect these state Attorney Generals jumped on board hoping for a quick buck. That was stupid. They ought to be paying more attention to tax-evading, local store-destroying Amazon.

    Apple biggest problem may be the judge they’ve been assigned. Lose with her, and they’ll be forced to appeal, meaning more time and more legal expenses.

    A judge’s good sense is very important. When I was involved in a copyright dispute, I breathed much more easily when I was able to see that the judge was extremely intelligent. My opponent’s case hinged on intimidating me and snowing the judge with irrelevant paperwork. Their original court filing was almost a foot-high. When I refused to be intimidated and summary judgment was but two weeks away, they bailed out, offering to settle out of court. And the judge wasn’t snowed in the least. She dismissed their lawsuit “with prejudice,” legal-speak for ‘you never had a case.’

    From her remarks thus far, the judge that Apple is facing seems rather clueless and remarkably ignorant of the market conditions at that time. She also seems to have made a mistake, common among those in law, of confusing conversations with conspiracy. Apple had to talk with the Big Six publishers so it could release the iPad promising digital books. And since they were talking business, Apple needed to promise them profits. Does this judge really think that Steve Jobs should have said, “publish on our platform and you’ll lose money.” Alas, she may.

    In the courtroom Apple’s greatest weakness is likely to be their attempt at price fixing through a contractual demand that an ebook not be sold elsewhere at a lower price. That sort of demand may make sense with identical printed books. But it makes no sense for digital books that, at present, often have to be custom formatted for each retail outlet and may, in the case of books done with iBooks Author, include additional elements.

    Apple needs to announce that it is dumping that clause and allowing those who publish through the iBookstore to publish elsewhere at any price they choose. Without that clause, it’ll be much more difficult for the DOJ to prove any attempt at price-fixing. And dumping the clause should be accompanied with an apology to authors and publishers. As an author, I’m willing to cut Apple a bit of slack because it’s clear they know little about book publishing.

    –Michael W. Perry, author of Untangling Tolkien

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  3. Steve Jobs: The customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway.

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