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Apple: Price-Fixing Charges 'Not True'


Lawyers for Apple will be back in court today, defending the company against government charges that it conspired with publishers to fix eBook prices. All the major publishing houses settled months ago with the Justice Department.

But as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, Apple's lawyer told the court the company won't settle because it did nothing wrong.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: In his opening statement, a very poised Mark Ryan, the Justice Department Attorney, brought in Jobs' statements and emails before and after the opening of the iBook store. After the store opened, a reporter asked Jobs why prices for Apple books were higher than prices on Amazon. Jobs said eventually all the prices will be the same. Ryan said that proves Jobs knew Apple's deal would be used to put pressure on eBook giant Amazon to raise its prices.

The government pointed out that eBooks from Apple could sell for as much as 14.99, well above Amazon's standard price at the time of 9.99. Apple points out that since it got into the market, overall eBook prices have actually come down.

But New York Law School Professor James Grimmelmann says that doesn't really matter.

JAMES GRIMMELMANN: The conspiracy itself is illegal, whether or not it's successful in extracting money from consumers' pockets.

SYDELL: Apple's attorney, Orin Snyder, vigorously accused the government of twisting Jobs' email statements to make it, quote, "fit into their conspiracy theory."

Though publishing executives will take the stand during the trial, they've all settled with the Justice Department. Grimmelmann believes Apple continues to fight because the retail model it set up for eBooks is pretty much the same way it sells everything.

GRIMMELMANN: This is how they sell apps, it's how they sell music. For Apple, this goes to the heart of a very large business.

SYDELL: Grimmelmann believes Apple worries that if it loses this case, it could have the Justice Department on its back for a while. The next few weeks will see a parade of high level executives take the stand; among them Eddy Cue, who negotiated the deals with the record labels that turned Apple into a music retail giant. Now he's facing scrutiny for pushing a little too hard to get all the big publishers to sign up with Apple.

Laura Sydell, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, andNPR.org.
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