Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The Apple/Amazon Conspiracy That Never Happened

The gist of the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Apple and five major book publishers: The publishers, assisted by Apple, conspired to fight back against Amazon’s pricing power in the growing e-book market.

The Wall Street Journal, which has been on the story for some time, has plenty of background here. And there’s some great, baroque detail in the DOJ’s complaint, which you can read over here. (New York venues of choice for alleged antitrust meetings: The “Chef’s Wine Cellar” at Picholene, and Alto, a now-defunct Italian restaurant.)

But there’s also this odd, scintillating, throwaway line in the middle of the complaint, where the DOJ casually mentions that before Apple thought about fighting with Amazon, it thought about a different strategy: Ruling the world in concert.

From the complaint:

In addition to considering competitive entry at that time, though, Apple also contemplated illegally dividing the digital content world with Amazon, allowing each to “own the category” of its choice — audio/video to Apple and e-books to Amazon.

Really? So how would that work? And why didn’t Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos end up conspiring to work together? The DOJ doesn’t explain any of this — it simply moves on to the rest of its argument.

And here’s where we need to point out that it’s not uncommon for lawsuit complaints to contain big helpings of theatrics, with accusations and context that won’t end up having any bearing in court, if it gets that far.

Indeed, several of the publishers that the DOJ is suing this morning are expected to settle with the government this afternoon — can’t get more theatrical than that. (Actually, they’ve already settled, says Bloomberg.)

Still, that’s an especially juicy bit of red meat to dangle in front of the public, so if the DOJ has more to say about the alleged would-be conspiracy, we’d love to hear about it. Apple declined to comment, but I’ll update if that changes.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock/Everett Collection)


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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle