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February 25, 2013

Small Independent Booksellers Sue Amazon, Big Six Publishers for Monopolizing e-Books

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

If you’ve ever read an e-book noting that it was published without digital rights restrictions at the author’s request, you may have wondered what it meant.

Digital rights restrictions are a kind of access control technology used by hardware manufacturers, publishers and copyright holders to limit the use of digital content such as e-books. Companies that use digital rights management include Amazon, AT&T, AOL (News - Alert), Apple Inc., BBC, Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Sony, and their right to do so is upheld by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

But now, three independent bookstores – Posman Books, located in Grand Central Terminal in New York City; Book House of Albany, New York; and Fiction Addiction of Greenville, South Carolina – have filed a class action lawsuit against (News - Alert) and the so-called “Big Six” publishers.

The plaintiffs are accusing Amazon and the publishers of monopolizing the e-book market, asking that Amazon and the Big Six be forced to remove the digital rights restrictions from their titles that prevent independent stores from selling e-books to Kindle owners, according to Crain’s New York.

The lawsuit, filed last week in the Southern District of New York, alleges that contracts between Amazon and the publishers dating back to the launch of the Kindle in 2007 have resulted in restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

"Competition, including price competition and choice at the consumer level for e-books has been, and will continue to be, restrained, suppressed, or eliminated as a result," the complaint states. It also warns of "the weakening or elimination of independent sources" for e-books and "a dangerous probability that Amazon will achieve a monopoly" in the e-book market.

Several of the publishers being sued, including Simon & Schuster and Hachette, have issued statements declaring the lawsuit to be “without merit.”

Edited by Braden Becker

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