Book News: Booksellers' Lawsuit Against Amazon, Publishers Dismissed
by: Annalisa Quinn, NPR, December 11, 2013 6:12:00 am
Also: Jennifer Szalai on the problem with "guilty pleasures"; Mike Tyson denied entry into the U.K.; portrait of Jane Austen sold at auction.
- Federal Judge Jed Rakoff has dismissed an antitrust class-action against Amazon and six major publishing houses. The suit brought by independent booksellers claimed the companies conspired to restrict trade through the use of DRM (or digital rights management, which limits the sharing and copying of ebooks). In his decision, Rakoff wrote that there was no evidence of a conspiracy. "The evasiveness of this allegation is remarkable," he said, adding, "Plaintiffs do not allege an unlawful agreement, only vague 'oral discussions or agreements regarding the use of restrictive DRM.' Plaintiffs do not even allege that any such discussions or agreements actually occurred, only that they may have occurred. And plaintiffs do not specify who participated in these hypothetical discussions or agreements, only that they may have involved 'one or more' of the Publishers and Amazon." In an odd twist, the lawsuit was filed in the middle of the Department of Justice's antitrust case arguing that five of those same six publishers were conspiring with Apple to fix prices. The companies eventually wound up settling.
- Sotheby's sold a watercolor portrait of Jane Austen — painted after her death, but based on a sketch by the writer's sister — to an anonymous private collector for £164,500 (around $270,000).
- Jennifer Szalai considers the concept of the "guilty pleasure" in a new essay for The New Yorker. She writes, "The guilty pleasure seems to me the distillation of all the worst qualities of the middlebrow — the condescension of the highbrow without the expenditure of effort, along with mass culture's pleasure-seeking without the unequivocal enjoyment. If you want to listen to Rihanna while reading the latest from Dean Koontz, just go ahead and do it. Don't try to suggest you know better. Forget the pretense and get over yourself. You have nothing to lose but your guilt."
- Former champion boxer Mike Tyson will not be traveling to the U.K. to promote his memoir, Undisputed Truth. He was denied entry because of his criminal record, which includes convictions for rape, assault and drug possession. Tyson told The Guardian: "I have a great deal of respect for the laws of the United Kingdom and will continue taking the proper steps for re-entry."
- Classicist Peter Brown writes about the difficulty of knowing anything unambiguously about the classics. On antiquity, he writes, "It is like a great building, visible from far away, at the end of a straight road that cuts across what seems to be a level plain. Only when we draw near are we brought up sharp, on the edge of a great canyon, invisible from the road, that cuts its way between us and the monument we seek. We realize that we are looking at this world from across a sheer, silent drop of two thousand years."
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