Here’s a media roundup with direct links to some of the coverage of the lawsuit that was first reported yesterday.
We’ve also embedded the full text of the complaint filed on February 15, 2013 (Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York) at the bottom of this post.
Three independent bookstores are taking Amazon and the so-called Big Six publishers (Random House, Penguin, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan) to court in an attempt to level the playing field for book retailers. If successful, the lawsuit could completely change how ebooks are sold.
Alyson Decker of Blecher & Collins PC, lead counsel acting for the bookstores, described DRM as “a problem that affects many independent bookstores.” She said the complaint is still in the process of being served to Amazon and the publishers and declined to state how it came about or whether other bookstores had been approached to be party to the suit.
The filing says that big-six publishers, through their contracts with Amazon that allow for Amazon’s proprietary DRM on their ebooks, “unreasonably restrain trade and commerce in the market for ebooks” in violation of the Sherman Act,” and claims “consumers have been injured because they have been deprived of choice and also denied the benefits of innovation and competition resulting from the foreclosure of independent brick-and-mortar bookstores.”
Most of the filing, though, is spent on Amazon, which the plaintiffs accuse of purposely creating a monopoly on ebooks in the United States.
The booksellers are asking the court to force the removal of Amazon’s proprietary DRM from ebooks published by the big six, to be replaced by an “open source DRM” that would allow files sold by independent stores to be readable on Kindle devices (without the multiple steps now required to make such a transfer).
Note: Make sure to also read Cory Doctorow’s About the Lawsuit in: “Indie booksellers sue Amazon and big publishers over DRM (but have no idea what “DRM” and “open source” mean) (via BoingBoing)”
The suit contends that none of the Big Six publishers have “any agreements with any independent brick-and-mortar bookstores or independent collectives to sell their e-books. Consequently, the vast majority of readers who wish to read an e-book published by the Big Six will purchase the e-book from Amazon.” Yet, the three plaintiffs and many indies sell e-readers and e-books via Kobo, which is the ABA’s digital book partner. Presumably publishers have “agreements” with Kobo.
While it notes that Apple used DRM on music but stopped in 2009, the suit doesn’t recognize that DRM is required by most major publishers (excluding Macmillan’s Tor and Forge imprints) for e-books wherever they’re sold, including the Nook, Apple’s iBookstore and Kobo.
The suit also states that Amazon’s DRM limits Kindle usage so that only e-books bought from Amazon can be used on Kindles and Kindles will work only for e-books bought on Amazon. But many e-books not purchased from Amazon can be read on Kindles: it is possible to convert e-books in non-Amazon formats like ePub to MOBI format, which can be read on Kindles. Likewise, PDFs can be read on Kindles, as can e-books from such sellers as Smashwords and Baen and from free sites like Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archives and from libraries lending e-books via OverDrive. (We’re not sure if e-books bought on Amazon can be read on non-Amazon devices such as the Nook or Kobo.)
Among the issues the suit, filed by Creizman PLLC of New York and Blecher & Collins of Los Angeles, asks the court to examine are whether the publishers and Amazon entered into a series of contracts which “unreasonably retrain trade and commerce” in the e-book market, and whether Amazon has unlawfully monopolized or attempted to monopolize the e-book mark
In a statement, Adam Rothberg, a spokesman for Simon & Schuster said, ““We believe the case is without merit or any basis in the law and intend to vigorously contest it. Furthermore, we believe the plaintiff retailers will be better served by working with us to grow their business rather than litigating.” Amazon said it would not comment on ongoing litigation. The other publishers declined comment or did not immediately return phone calls.