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Industry News: Apple, publishers get sued a lot of times, Hunger Games among most challenged books

April 14, 2012

DOJ Files Anti-trust Suit Against Apple, Five of the Big Six Publishers

Following through on earlier warnings, the Department of Justice has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Apple, MacMillan, Penguin, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster, alleging collusion in setting e-book prices. The suit revolves around the alleged joint decision by Apple and the publishers to push book sales to an agency model, where the publisher sets the sale price and the seller gets a percentage. Previously, Amazon had been taking a loss on e-book sales. The lawsuit describes a series of CEO-only meetings among the defendants at which the collusion occurred. Three of the five publishers (Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins) have settled the suit. They have agreed to move away from the agency model immediate as part of the settlement. In a business world where Amazon’s practices are also arguably predatory, taking such an overt path to this business model wasn’t an enlightened approach and may hurt the publishers badly.

Ironically, at least one analyst believes that Amazon has become accustomed to the 30% cut it gets from book sales under the agency model, and may not move away immediately. And even with deep pockets, Amazon can’t take a loss on everything forever. The same analyst warns that lower book prices may result in Kindle prices that are higher than they would have been otherwise.

In case this whole thing didn’t have enough threads to keep track of, 16 states have followed the federal lawsuit and filed lawsuits against Apple, MacMillan, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin. (HarperCollins and Hachette have settled with the state attorneys general.) Florida is not one of those states at this time.

Court ruling may limit safe harbor limitations for copyright violation

If you run a website and you decide to pirate a copy of someone’s book, the rights holder is required to contact you to have the material taken down, and they have to provide evidence of their ownership before they can require you to take down the material. It’s a reasonable provision that stops people from crippling other people’s online content with frivolous claims of ownership. Unfortunately, this provision, known as the “safe harbor” provision, also gives pirates the right to post stolen material and, when called on it, say “oops” and pull the material down. A federal appeals court has tried to split the difference between inadvertant piracy and malicious piracy. It ruled that YouTube must take down Daily Show videos it posted without permission, saying that a reasonable jury would find that YouTube knew what was going on and had a responsibility to stop it. YouTube is almost certaiin to appeal the ruling, which takes us one step closer to a solution to some of the intellectual property jungle that has to be negotiated in our new online world.

Hunger Games Among the Most Challenged Books in 2011

The American Library Association has announced its list of most frequently challenged books in 2011. The list is diverse and has something to annoy everyone, including classics like To Kill a Mockingbird (#10, challenged because of offensive language and racism) and Brave New World (#7, insensitivity, nudity, racism, religion, and [gasp!] sex). The Hunger Games trilogy ranked third because of its anti-ethnic and anti-family themes, insensitivity, offensive language, satanic and occult themes, and violence. The number one ranking went to the ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r series, challenged because of its offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit content, and because it is unsuitable to its intended age group. The stupid teenager-based spelling of the title was apparently not one of the reasons it was challenged. In all the ALA received 326 reports about attempts to remove books from library bookshelves.

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