Is Steve Jobs Message a Smoking Gun in Apple E-Book Case?
Since it was first accused of conspiring to raise the prices of e-books, Apple has maintained it didn’t care what sort of deals publishers arranged with other retailers, as long as they honored the terms of their agreement to sell books on its iTunes store. Apple’s lead counsel Orin Snyder claimed as much in his opening arguments in the Department of Justice’s e-book antitrust case against the company last week.
“The negotiations make clear that the interests of the publishers and Apple were not aligned,” Snyder said. “Apple wanted lower prices on its own book store, and was indifferent to prices throughout the rest of the industry.”
But a new document entered into evidence Wednesday by the DOJ suggests that Apple may not have been quite as indifferent to publishers’ deals with Amazon as it professes to be. It’s a Jan. 14, 2010, message from Steve Jobs to Eddy Cue, his point man for e-book negotiations, and in it he says he wants publishers to push Amazon to an agency pricing model where publishers, not retailers, set prices.
“I can live with this as long as they move Amazon to the agent model too for new releases for the first year,” Jobs wrote. “If not, I’m not sure we can be competitive …”
A smoking gun? The DOJ certainly thinks so, and it used the message to great effect Thursday, shaking up the head of Apple’s iBookstore on the stand and undermining the company’s claims of indifference to other industry pricing arrangements.
Apple hasn’t yet had a chance to explain the message, which Snyder claims was never sent. But it promises to do so tomorrow when Eddy Cue takes the stand. Just how isn’t yet clear, though it’s worth noting that the subject line of the message in question is “Book prices thoughts” and it’s clearly part of a longer thread. Apple has argued throughout the trial that the DOJ’s case is built on cherry-picked documents that don’t support its theories when put in broader context. Perhaps that’s what we’ll see tomorrow.
Apple has not yet responded to a request for comment.
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