ABA, B&N, Others Support Apple at Supreme Court
The American Booksellers Association, Barnes & Noble, Authors United and the Authors Guild have filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court asking it to review the district court decision, upheld by the appeals court, against Apple, in the so-called agency model case. The court found that Apple violated antitrust law by coordinating with five major U.S. book publishers to influence the price of e-books. In the case, the publishers settled with the Justice Department; only Apple went to court.
The brief argues that "the government's focus on Apple's allegedly anti-competitive activities was misplaced, because Apple's conduct, in fact, enhanced competition by increasing e-book output, the number of e-book titles, and the number of e-book distributors, which led to technological improvements in the e-book market and enhanced freedom of expression and access to e-books." They noted that Apple's entry into the market "actually increased competition, as demonstrated by the fall of Amazon's market share from 90% in 2010 to around 60% two years later."
The brief highlights "the damaging effect on e-book publishing as well as the future of authorship that occurs when e-book distribution is in the hands of a single company." As the brief states, "Absent correction, the lower court's wooden approach threatens to undermine the very objective of antitrust law--to ensure robust competition."
The brief cites the dispute last year between Amazon and Hachette over e-book pricing that involved various punitive measures taken by Amazon against Hachette, including removing the ability to preorder titles, thus creating a "disastrous" effect for authors about to publish books.
ABA CEO Oren Teicher commented: "Booksellers firmly believe in the importance of competition, a robust and diverse environment for authors and readers, and a healthy marketplace of ideas. We believe Apple's participation in the e-books market strengthened all those goals."
Author Douglas Preston, founder of Authors United, said, "We authors feel strongly that diversity, competition, and the free flow of ideas are key to a healthy marketplace of books. The numbers unequivocally show that Apple's entry into the e-book market increased competition and gave authors and publishers greater choice in how content was delivered to the reading public."
Authors Guild executive director Mary Rasenberger called the case "critical to anyone interested in a competitive and diverse literary marketplace. We fundamentally question the wisdom of the Second Circuit's use of antitrust law to punish a business arrangement that demonstrably increased competition in the e-book marketplace."