Apple Antitrust Case Ends With Pointless Injunction

A blog about business and economics.
Sept. 6 2013 12:08 PM

Apple Smacked With Narrow Price Fixing Injunction

179616242
Pedestrians walk past advertisements for the iPhone 5 at the Apple store in central Tokyo on September 6, 2013.

Photo by TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images

"Apple hit with U.S. injunction in e-books antitrust case" sounds like a bad news headline for the company, but it's actually good news. The crux of the matter is that they already lost the case, so the only question is how stiff would the penalty be. The Justice Department was seeking a broad injunction that would essentially subject all of Apple's content-retailing businesses to regulatory supervision on the theory that the book, music, and video markets are all so similar that the remedy for book price-fixing should extend to the whole operation. Judge Denise Cote disagreed, arguing that the price-fixing behavior was limited to books and so the remedy should be limited to books.

So this is a win for Apple.

Advertisement

It also strikes me as a bit of an odd conclusion to the case. From the get-go my take on this has been that it's silly for the Justice Department to spend its time worrying about collusion between traditional book publishers. This is, after all, a dying industry. Or at minimum an industry that's facing critical competitive threats from new technologies. The best counterargument to my point of view on this, though, is that we should see the case as not primarily about publisher collusion about Apple and Apple's role in facilitating the collusion. Maybe we don't really care about the traditional book publishing market, but Apple-facilitated collusion there could be the opening bid to broader monopolistic practices in other retail markets.

Judge Cote's ruling, however, means that there are no broader implications to this case other than the book publishers not being able to team up against Amazon. But even there, the cartel actually operated long enough to bust up Amazon's total domination of the e-book marketplace so it seems like everyone achieved their main strategic goals.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.