Justice Department publisher anti-trust investigation proceeds toward settlement
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  • April 2, 2012
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Reuters has a report from a couple of anonymous tipsters close to the Justice Department talks with Apple and the major publishers regarding the antitrust investigation into agency pricing. According to Reuters’s sources, the negotiations may be within weeks of reaching a settlement.

The settlement is expected to eliminate Apple’s “most favored nation” status, which currently allows Apple to lower its prices for an e-book to match the lowest price the book is available elsewhere. (Though the article doesn’t say whether Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which have a similar contract clause, would have to give it up as well.) It could also give retailers more control over pricing.

Reuters didn’t have any further details on the proposed settlement—the rest of the article just recapitulates the imposition of agency pricing and the antitrust investigation that followed. The Justice Department, Apple, and the involved publishers either could not be reached for or declined to comment, so we probably won’t hear more about a settlement until and unless it is actually announced.

I would personally prefer to see the matter go to court, but the cash-strapped publishers undoubtedly have a lot of incentive to settle rather than engage in a costly legal battle. Of course, there are still a number of class-action lawsuits against agency pricing working their own ways through the courts, so it may very well end up there sooner or later after all.

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