April 23, 2012

Book industry under siege: Copycat lawsuits cropping up around the world


The Supreme Court of Canada in Ontario

“The e-book price fixing allegations at the heart of a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice are now erupting on this side of the border,” reports Marsha Lederman in a story for Toronto’s Globe & Mail. She details a “proposed class-action lawsuit” filed in British Columbia’s Supreme Court by a Vancouver law firm that “echo the allegations in the U.S..” The Canadian suit claims “a number of publishers engaged in a ‘conspiracy’ to lessen competition and ‘fix, maintain, increase or control the prices of e-books.'”

 ”The U.S. case isn’t going to cover Canadian consumers. So it’s the same underlying facts, it’s the same consumer protection agenda, but it is for different consumers in a different country,” said lawyer Reidar Mogerman, who filed the suit in B.C. Supreme Court last week on behalf of plaintiff Denise E. McCabe, a non-practising Kamloops lawyer who has purchased a “significant” number of e-books.

What’s more, the Globe & Mail story reports that “Mogerman is working with London, Ont., firm Siskinds LLP, which filed a similar suit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice last week.”

Altogether, five copycat lawsuits have been filed in Canadian courts, says the G&M — including one filed in Quebec Superior Court, detailed in this Montreal Gazette story by Jason MacGruder.

Meanwhile numerous reports —such as this dispatch from the Australian Financial Review — say the Australian government is likely to follow suit by filing suit, too.

At this point it seems likely there will be many more such; we’ve still a few English-speaking countries to go. And this, on top of not just the DOJ lawsuit, but lawsuits from a growing number of states and the E.U..

But what happens if Macmillan and Penguin, not to mention Apple — all of whom refused to settle with the DOJ here in the States — win their case? That case becomes all the more urgent now. But these things takes years to conclude. It will be tough for the publishers, at least, to fight so many expensive legal battles at once. While all three defendants seem confident, at least two of them aren’t rich enough. Making this decision by the DOJ all the more ominous, and necessary to fight.



Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.