Senator Schumer in WSJ: DOJ ebooks suit could “wipe out the publishing industry as we know it”

Charles Schumer

The Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Apple and major book publishers “sounds plausible on its face, [but] could wipe out the publishing industry as we know it, making it much harder for young authors to get published,” New York Senator Charles Schumer writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Schumer has been in touch with the WSJ about the ebook pricing suit for awhile. “Rarely have I seen a suit that so ill serves the interests of the consumer,” he told the paper in April.

Schumer’s overall argument against the agency pricing lawsuit is that the lawsuit hurts competition by making Amazon the dominant player. “While consumers may have a short-term interest in today’s new release e-book prices, they have a more pressing long-term interest in the survival of the publishing industry,” he writes.

Overall, Schumer says, the lawsuit also has broad implications for “other industries that are coming up with creative ways to grow and adapt to the Internet.” He says, “The administration needs to reassess its prosecution priorities. Justice Department officials currently have comprehensive guidelines in place to determine when they should challenge mergers, but they have no such guidelines for non-merger investigations. It’s time to come up with some.”

The Department of Justice is suing Apple and five big publishers for allegedly colluding to set ebook prices. Three of the publishers — HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster — have settled, while Penguin, Macmillan and Apple will fight the suit in court. The DOJ received over 800 public comments on the proposed settlement and is expected to post all of them, along with its response, around July 20, with the proposed final judgment on the settlement going through on August 3. The trial is set to begin June 3, 2013.

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