Apple is on trial for refusing to pretend that the company has done something wrong.
In 2009, Apple invited five major publishers to sell e-books through the forthcoming iPad, on the basis of the “agency model.” The publishers would set the prices, Apple would take a 30% cut. Apple also required that the e-books not be sold more cheaply elsewhere.
The publishers were happy to agree because Amazon had been buying new e-books wholesale and steeply discounting them, sometimes at a loss to itself, in order to sell them at $9.99. In the eyes of the publishers, this price seemed too low a benchmark. Apple’s deal gave them new clout in negotiating with Amazon.
The government says average book prices rose in the wake of this “conspiracy.” Apple says prices declined. It’s irrelevant.
To charge a price that some persons dislike violates nobody’s rights. Nor does stipulating terms of contract that a prospective partner dislikes and may reject. Anti-trust law has nothing to do with justice. It’s a bludgeon that some businesses — in conspiracy with the government — use to thwack competitors.
No violation of anyone’s rights has even been claimed in this case, let alone established. Yet five innocent parties have been forced to pay tens of millions to the government and accede to curtailment of their right to contract. And Apple, having refused to be bullied, must defend itself in court.
That’s the crime, and government officials are the ones committing it.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.