As Apple returns to court on Friday to fight with government lawyers over proposed restrictions on its e-book business, the company is getting a little belated help from its alleged co-conspirators.
This summer, a judge ruled that Apple had conspired with five publishers to raise the prices of e-books. Those five publishers -- HarperCollins, Lagardere's Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Penguin (which is now part of Penguin Random House) and Macmillan -- had already settled and agreed to pony up $164 million to customers who might have overpaid.
But this week, those five publishers jointly filed a motion objecting to the government's proposed remedies in the case. In essence, the publishers are saying that the additional limits being placed on Apple would punish them a second time.
"The provisions do not impose any limitation on Apple's pricing behavior at all; rather, under the guise of punishing Apple, they effectively punish the settling defendants by prohibiting agreements with Apple using an agency model," the publishers' motion stated.
The Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and the five publishers last year. Following the judge's ruling, Justice Department lawyers submitted a list of proposed remedies that include appointing an antitrust monitor, terminating Apple's contracts with the publishers and blocking new ones for several years, and requiring Apple to let competitors post links to their own e-book stores in their apps.
Apple had filed its own rebuttal earlier, calling the proposed measures "draconian and punitive."
A hearing about the proposed remedies is scheduled for Friday in U.S. District Court in New York.
Update at 5:26 p.m. Aug. 8: An earlier version of this post identified one of the settling publishers as Penguin Random House. At the time of the settlement, the settling party was Penguin, which was subsequently acquired by Random House.