Apple Judge Orders Monitor for E-Book Antitrust Case

Apple Inc., the world’s biggest technology company, was barred from entering into anticompetitive contracts with electronic-book publishers, two months after a judge said it played a “central role” in a conspiracy to fix prices.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan also will appoint a monitor to review Apple’s antitrust compliance policies, according to an order made public today that narrows many provisions sought by the U.S. government. Cote last week said the order would rest “as lightly as possible” on how Apple does business.

“Apple shall not enter into or maintain any agreement with an e-book publisher where such agreement likely will increase, fix, or set the price at which other e-book retailers can acquire or sell e-books,” Cote said in the order.

Cote rejected government requests that she give the monitor broader authority over Apple’s business practices, order changes to how Apple sells e-books through electronic applications, and regulate content sold by Apple other than e-books, including digital music.

Cote said the order will expire after five years instead of the 10 years requested by the Justice Department. Apple plans to appeal the order, spokesman Tom Neumayr said.

“Apple did not conspire to fix e-book pricing,” Neumayr said in an e-mailed statement. “The iBookstore gave customers more choice and injected much needed innovation and competition into the market.”

The U.S. is pleased with the order, Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer said in an e-mailed statement.

‘Restore Competition’

“Consumers will continue to benefit from lower e-books prices as a result of the department’s enforcement action to restore competition in this important industry,” he said.

The U.S. sued Cupertino, California-based Apple and five book publishers in April 2012. After a trial, which began June 3, Cote ruled July 10 that Apple violated antitrust laws in its contracts with five of the six biggest book publishers.

Apple was found liable to 33 states that joined the Justice Department in the suit and faces a separate trial on damages sought by the states. The Justice Department didn’t ask for money damages in its case.

The case is U.S. v. Apple Inc., 12-cv-02826, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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