The e-book price-fixing saga between the U.S. government and Apple has finally come to an end. After a long and messy trial, presiding judge Denise Cote has given the final ruling against Apple. The injunction isn’t as punitive as expected, but there are still several stipulations that will change the way Apple does business regarding the iBookstore.
Since Apple was found guilty of conspiring with publishers to fix e-book prices, the suit has been quite the uphill battle for Apple. But the final ruling isn’t as far reaching as Apple originally feared. The Department of Justice’s original remedy proposal was limited to not only the iBookstore, but the whole iTunes Store. Competitors like Amazon were also going to be given the ability to sell e-books directly to users in third-party iOS apps. Apple called the proposal “draconian.”
Today’s ruling is more toned down. An outside committee will still audit Apple’s activity to ensure that nothing shady happens behind the scenes, but Apple won’t be forced to let apps like Kindle for iOS sell e-books directly. Apple has to treat e-books like apps, which means they are subject to the same pricing rules. The court is forcing Apple to throw out a clause called “Most Favored Nation” that made sure iBooks were sold equal to the lowest available prices online.
The DoJ’s remedy has been applied to only the iBookstore and Apple’s relationships with book publishers, rather than the entire iTunes Store. Apple’s partnerships with publishers have been effectively stalled for the next several years, but the iBookstore will remain up and running.
Apple still isn’t happy about the ruling, unsurprisingly. “Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing,” the company said in a statement. “The iBookstore gave customers more choice and injected much needed innovation and competition into the market. Apple will pursue an appeal of the injunction.”