CEA Slams DOJ, Obama Administration Over E-Book Lawsuit against Apple

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The Consumer Electronics Association Wednesday slammed the Justice Department and Obama Administration for the lawsuit filed against Apple and publishers over e-book pricing.

That was just one of a mix of reactions out of Washington to the DOJ announcement. Three of the five publishers settled the complaint, including News Corp.-owned HarperCollins and CBS-owned Simon & Schuster.

"The decision by the U.S. government to sue Apple and book publishers for alleged antitrust violations over the price of electronic books marks another sad milestone in our government's war on American companies," said CEA president Gary Shapiro. "Apple is an American crown jewel that other nations covet, yet our own government leads an attack on its entry into electronic books."

Shapiro paired that lawsuit with the government's denial of the AT&T/T-Mobile deal and the $4 billion breakup fee that cost AT&T to argue that current political leadership is essentially inviting -- he likened the actions to "catnip" -- the European Union and other governments to extract money from "successful American companies."

Shapiro switched metaphors and suggested the Obama administration was a reckless driver bent on destruction. "Our nation is heading toward an economic cliff, and the administration is not only putting its full weight on the accelerator, it is removing the airbags of innovation and growth, which are our best chance at safely avoiding economic catastrophe."

Sharing Shapiro's dismay was Adam Thierer of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. "Apple and the publishers have come up with a plan that keeps intellectual works flowing while making sure that the creators behind them get paid. At a time when copyright critics always say, ‘Just find a better business model,' Apple and the publishers did just that," he said in a statement. He suggested that it was the dilution of copyright protection that prompted companies to seek alternatives. "Now that the effectiveness of traditional copyright is fading rapidly, industry consolidation, cross-promotions, and pricing deals will increasingly be the ‘better business model' some will turn to."

But DOJ had its fans as well. "We welcome the Justice Department's action today to ensure that consumers pay a fair price for the e-books they purchase," said Ellen Bloom, director of federal policy for Consumers Union. "[T]he policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, said,. The arrangement between Apple and publishers appears to have seriously hurt competition and left consumers paying more for e-books. This antitrust suit would put a stop to this practice."