April 25, 2014

Apple case stays in the Big Apple


Sad pun via Shutterstock.

Sad pun via Shutterstock.

Rotten news for Apple: Judge Denise Cote has denied the request to postpone the U.S. vs Apple case again, and will not move the case outside her New York court room. Apple is stuck with a court date of July 14, when all the tourists are out on the sidewalks and there’s no way to guard yourself from the heat rising off the pavement.

What can we say about this news? It’s not surprising. Cote has held firm against Apple since the beginning. Is there any way to make these nos more dramatic? I’m running out of apple puns. Here’s an excerpt from my uncompleted dramatic script for U.S. vs: Apple (a tragedy).

Lights up. Six PUBLISHERS stand onstage, five in the light and one in darkness, with their backs to the audience. APPLE stands in the center, facing the audience. Three PUBLISHERS drop money to the ground and step offstage. One PUBLISHER joins hands with the PUBLISHER in the darkness, leaving cash behind, steps offstage. Final publisher drops money to the ground and slowly steps offstage. Lights out.

Stage right: Pretrial hearing, May 23, 2013

MARK RYAN, lawyer for the DoJ: So, what do you think of the Apple case so far?

COTE: Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books, and that the circumstantial evidence in this case, including the terms of the agreements, will confirm that…. But that’s my tentative view. We’ll have a trial anyway, why not?

Stage left: Apple office, 2013. All-white desks with expensive-looking laptops and scattered files. Men sit at desks wearing black turtlenecks and hip glasses.


BROMWICH: The DoJ sent me to meet with your executives and examine your papers.

APPLE EMPLOYEE #1: That stuff doesn’t have anything to do with anti-trust law.

Bromwich begins to take papers off of their desks.

APPLE EMPLOYEE #2: This is incredibly disruptive!

BROMWICH: Don’t worry about it. Denise and I are old friends. Hold on, I’ve got to take her a call.

Center stage: Court room, June 4, 2013.

LAWRENCE BUTERMAN: So that concludes my Powerpoint presentation. Apple told publishers that Apple—and only Apple—could get prices up in their industry. Consumers in this country paid hundreds of millions of dollars more for ebooks than they would have.

COTE (to APPLE): So Apple was the ringmaster. You colluded with five publishers to raise ebook law.

APPLE LAWYER: This case doesn’t make any sense. We came up with an unsustainable model to compete with a company that has an almost total monopoly in the ebook field. Our company knew that the major publishers also disliked Amazon’s low prices and saw Apple’s potential entry as a pathway to higher retail prices industry-wide.

COTE: So you colluded with them. I call Steve Jobs to the stand.

APPLE LAWYER: He’s… not here. How about Tim Cook?

COTE: He’ll do.

COOK enters stage left.

COOK: I wasn’t really there when this happened.

COTE: Yeah, you’re right. I call Apple Vice President Eddy Cue to the stand. Get an economist up there, too.

CUE (stands up): I can explain step-by-step every business decision we made in this very patient voice for as long as you feel like listening. We had good business reasons to structure its ebook deal the way it did, independent of whatever collusion the publishers might have engaged in.

KEVIN MURPHY (stands up): Amazon is the 800 pound gorilla in the courtroom. With an 80% to 90% share of the ebook market (and as one of the biggest retailers of physical books) Amazon wielded enormous power over the book industry.

APPLE LAWYER: Apple did not conspire with any publisher to raise prices in the e-book industry.

COTE (bangs gavel): Sure they did. Eddy Cue, you have a really soothing voice. Thanks for joining us. Apple seized the moment and brilliantly played its hand with the vision, the format, the timetable, and the coordination that they needed to raise ebook prices. Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy. You’re guilty. Without Apple’s orchestration of this conspiracy, it would not have succeeded as it did.

APPLE LAWYER: We’ll fight this.

COTE (gathers papers and stands up to leave): Happens every time. See you next year.

APPLE: Can we get rid of Michael Bromwich, at the very least?

COTE: Why?

APPLE: He’s a quasi-institutional offshoot of this courtroom. Plus he’s expensive and kind of a jerk.

COTE: No. You have to cooperate with the court-appointed monitor. Lawyers make a lot of money.

APPLE LAWYER: Let’s set a later date. We need more time to prepare.

COTE: You have until July. You can’t push this off any longer.

APPLE LAWYER: Then let’s leave New York.


APPLE LAWYER: C’mon, grant us a stay. We’re in danger of losing a lot of money from a lot of states. We can promise to be nicer to Bromwich.

BROMWICH looks at Cote, shrugs.

COTE: No. See you July 14.

STAGE MANAGER IN AMAZON T-SHIRT arrives with large broom, sweeps money off the floor and into a dust pan.

APPLE employees, BROMWICH, and COTE watch him in silence.

Lights out.


Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.