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Apple found liable of conspiring with publishers to raise ebook prices

The first act in the ebook price-fixing lawsuit has drawn to close, with Judge Denise Cote ruling that Apple conspired, along with publishers, to raise ebook prices by introducing agency pricing.

Reuters, which was first to report the decision, noted it could “reshape how electronic books are sold on the Internet” but that it did not come as “a total surprise,” given that the judge had indicated, in a draft opinion written before the trial began on June 3, that “Apple’s defense might fail.”

In the 160-page ruling, Cote wrote that Apple “provided the Publisher Defendants with the vision, the format, the timetable, and the coordination that they needed to raise e-book prices” in launching the iBookstore. Cote also expressed her opinion that several defense witnesses, including Apple exec Eddy Cue and Macmillan CEO John Sargent, were “less than forthcoming” in their testimony and “not credible.” (Publishers Lunch offers a lengthy summary of the ruling (subscription required), while the full decision can be read online.)

Apple was the sole defendant in the trial after the five publishers named in the lawsuit each settled out of court. Damages will be decided on during a subsequent court proceeding.

Apple has indicated it will appeal the decision. From a statement (via PaidContent):

Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing, and we will continue to fight against these false accusations. When we introduced the iBookstore in 2010, we gave customers more choice, injecting much needed innovation and competition into the market, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry. We’ve done nothing wrong and we will appeal the judge’s decision.