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Macmillan settles with US government in Apple ebook antitrust case
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  • February 9, 2013
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Fifth and final publisher reaches settlement in case alleging conspiracy with tech giant to raise prices and fight Amazon

Macmillan has become the fifth and final US book publisher to sign a settlement with the government in a sweeping antitrust case that accused the companies of conspiring to raise ebook prices. Macmillan and the justice department filed the proposed settlement, which requires a judge’s approval, on Friday in US District Court in Manhattan.

Macmillan was the lone holdout among five publishers that the government sued in April 2012. Three publishers settled immediately and the fourth, Pearson Plc’s Penguin Group, settled in December.

The justice department will continue to litigate conspiracy allegations against Apple Inc, it said in a statement. It accuses Apple of conspiring with the publishers to raise prices and fight the dominance of Amazon. Apple rejects the allegations, saying it did not collude but signed agreements with publishers individually. Apple has also said in court papers that the government’s suit “sides with monopoly, rather than competition” by shoring up Amazon’s early advantage in electronic books. A civil trial for Apple is scheduled to begin in June.

The bookseller Barnes & Noble has sided with Apple, telling the federal court that it, too, is concerned about a monopoly by Amazon.

Macmillan’s chief executive, John Sargent, was a defiant critic of the suit, saying when it was filed that his company did not collude and that settlement terms required by the justice department “would have a very negative and long term impact on those who sell books for a living”.

Sargent did not immediately return a message left at his office on Friday.

Under the proposed settlement agreement, Macmillan must lift restrictions on discounting by ebook retailers and must report to the justice department its communication with other publishers.

Justice department lawyers “expect the prices of Macmillan’s ebooks will also decline”, as happened after settlements with the other publishers, Jamillia Ferris, chief of staff of the department’s antitrust division, said in the news release.

PublishingEbooksAppleAmazon.comPenguinPearsonBarnes & NobleUnited Statesguardian.co.uk

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