Federal U.S. District Judge Denise Cote ruled Wednesday that Apple's supposed modernizing redesign of the e-book industry actually amounts to little more than a price-gouging monopoly at consumers' expense. The technology giant stands accused of violating anti-trust laws by edging up retail prices on e-books, in collusion with six major publishers.
“Without Apple’s orchestration of this conspiracy, it would not have succeeded as it did in the spring of 2010,” Judge Cote wrote in her ruling.
The U.S. Justice Department brought the antitrust case against Apple and the publishers last year, but the publishers chose to settle out of court. In the government's version of the story, they say Apple's entry into the e-book market pushed the entire industry into what's called an "agency model," in which publishers set book prices rather than retailers—i.e. Amazon, with its once-uniform $9.99 books. If Amazon and its smaller counterparts wanted to sell the newest books on the market, they had to agree to the more expensive rates, thus eliminating competition by price.
Apple founder and paragon Steve Jobs came up multiple times in the proceedings, by way of some pretty incriminating emails he wrote to publishers in the weeks leading up to the introduction of the iPad and the opening of Apple’s e-book store.
“Apple has struggled mightily to reinterpret Jobs's statements in a way that will eliminate their bite,” Judge Cote said. “Its efforts have proven fruitless.”