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Court says Apple needs monitor after 'blatant' ebook price fixing

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Federal judge will issue penalties next week


Apple exec Eddy Cue (left) was accused of orchestrating the price-fixing scheme.

The judge overseeing Apple's ebooks price-fixing case has indicated that she will not crack down on the company as hard as the US government has requested, but she also said she was disappointed that Apple has not shown remorse. For that reason, US District Judge Denise Cote suggested that when she makes her final ruling she will require that a third-party monitors Apple in order to ensure that the company doesn't violate antitrust laws in the future.

"The record at trial demonstrated a blatant and aggressive disregard at Apple for the requirements of the law," Cote said in court yesterday. "Apple executives used their considerable skills to orchestrate a price-fixing scheme that significantly raised the prices of ebooks ... Apple has been given several opportunities to demonstrate to this court that it has taken the lessons of this litigation seriously. I am disappointed to say that it has not taken advantage of those opportunities."

"The record at trial demonstrated a blatant and aggressive disregard at Apple." But Cote doesn't think it's necessary to restrict Apple's agreements in other media categories, such as music, movies, and TV shows. She also disagreed with the government's request that other ebook sellers be allowed to link back to their own web stores from the iOS apps free of charge. "I want this injunction to rest as lightly as possible on how Apple runs its business," Cote said according to Reuters. The Department of Justice accused Apple and five of the six largest book publishers last year of conspiring to raise and fix ebook prices. All the publishers previously settled with the government and in July Cote found Apple liable for antitrust violations. After the feds are finished with Apple, the company must deal with claims made by attorneys general from 33 states and multiple class-action suits related to the case. Apple's headaches are just getting started.