The ongoing iBooks antitrust case between Apple and the United States Department of Justice took a very interesting twist this morning when the DoJ and 33 state Attorneys General laid out plans to remedy Apple’s wrongdoings and restore competition to the market.
The DoJ wants Apple to terminate all of its deals with book publishers, and refrain from entering into any new ones for at least five years. It also wants the company to start selling e-books from rivals like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
If the plans are approved by a court, Apple will be forced to cut its ties with Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster. It would also be stopped from signing new deals to prevent it from competing on price. So where will its books come from?
This is where it gets really painful for Apple. The DoJ wants the Cupertino company to begin selling e-book titles from rival stores, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Nook. It also wants Apple to allow these companies to link to their own e-book stores from within their iOS apps.
As things currently stand, these companies cannot sell titles on iOS — users must purchase them via the website and then have their purchases synced to their library.
Finally, the DoJ wants Apple to appoint an independent body to ensure its internal antitrust compliance policies are sufficient, and that the company follows them properly to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
The Wall Street Journal reports that these plans are the same as those the DoJ said it would pursue when it first brought its suit against Apple.
“Under the department’s proposed order, Apple’s illegal conduct will cease and Apple and its senior executives will be prevented from conspiring to thwart competition in the future,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the DoJ’s Antitrust Division.
For those who haven’t been keeping up, Apple has been found guilty of conspiring to fix e-book prices with a number of book publishers in an effort to hurt rivals like Amazon. “Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy,” said U.S. District Judge Denise Cote at the end of the trial back in July.
Apple will of course appeal this decision, and it will fight as hard as it can to try to prevent the DoJ’s plans from going into affect. While it may be willing to allow Amazon and others to sell their content inside their own apps on iOS — if it really has to — the company would probably prefer to shut down the iBookstore altogether than link to rival content from there.
But whether Apple will have any success in this battle is unclear at this point. Right now, it doesn’t look good.