Recently it seems that the United States government has fallen into a coma of sorts through which it has lost all discretion to distinguish good business behavior from bad business behavior.
Back in April 2012, the DOJ filed suit against Apple and five publishers for allegedly violating the Sherman Antitrust Act by conspiring with publishers to market its e-books at higher prices through iBookstore, thus removing Amazon from its prior 90% ownership of the e-book market. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote ruled against Apple because there was "compelling evidence" that Apple played a "central role" in conspiring with publishers to raise prices and eliminate competition for e-books.
In its complaint, the DOJ called Apple the "ringmaster" in a "price-fixing conspiracy" that imposed "restraint of trade," and in her 159-page opinion, Judge Cote wrote, "Apple chose to join forces with the publisher defendants to raise e-book prices and equipped them with the means to do so. Without Apple's orchestration of this conspiracy, it would not have succeeded as it did."
From that kind of pejorative language, you would think that Apple is some sort of degenerate, hungry criminal, when in reality, Apple was simply trying to make a profit through a platform that they believed to be a win-win for readers and publishers alike.
An Apple spokesperson has responded to the lawsuit with the following statement:
"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."
As a loyal supporter of small businesses, I understand the reluctance behind advocating for big businesses to become bigger, but regardless of the size of a business, one thing all businesses have in common is that they all want to make profits. It seems that lately, though, rather than being awarded for taking steps toward achieving their goals, big businesses like Apple are being hammered with lawsuits and bad press — punishment, rather than praise — for their successes.
In Apple's antitrust lawsuit decided on Wednesday, there was no conspiracy, shady behavior, or criminal act. Apple entered the e-book market with a business strategy to overcome the fact that the market was almost exclusively dominated by Amazon,which is what any good business would have done. But although they were able to garner the support of publishers and readers, they were met by opposition from the government. Through this case and other recent agitation involving large corporations, it is becoming clearer and clearer that perhaps it is the government, and not the corporation, that has become the new power-hungry mogul.