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Apple to Publishers, Authors: No MFN Enforcement in Canada Until 2020

Last month’s settlement between the Canadian Competition Bureau, Apple, and 3 trade publishers has attracted little press attention, so there’s a good chance that more than a few publishers and authors don’t know the terms of the settlement.

Apple informed its suppliers today that for the next three years it is giving up the option to automatically match ebook prices.

Apple hereby gives notice that, with respect to any book sold in Canada, Apple will no longer apply nor enforce any price parity provisions (also known as Price MFNs) in your eBook Distribution Agreement until January 20, 2020. This includes the retail price parity clause typically contained in Section 5(b) of the Agreement.

The change is being made in connection to a settlement between Apple and the Canadian Competition Bureau to resolve case CT-2017-005 with regard to Apple. The remainder of the eBook Distribution Agreement remains in effect and is not otherwise changed in any way.

The iBooks team

The suspension of the MFN clause was the sole concession made by Apple in the settlement agreement; it did not have to pay an indemnity, accept oversight from a compliance officer, or admit to wrongdoing. (S&S, Hachette, and Macmillan, on the other hand, must give up agency price control for nine months.)

And that is the settlement agreement which Kobo fought to prevent for several years.

I do not know why anyone bothered.

Thanks for the tip, anon!

image by Alice Rosen

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Michael W. Perry February 15, 2017 um 12:20 pm

Quote: "I do not know why anyone bothered."

Agreed. There’s a parallel rule to "too big to fail" for banks. It’s "too big to punish" for law-flaunting by giant corporations such as Amazon, Apple, and Google. They have the money and in-house lawyers to drag out legal disputes for years. Even large publishers such as S&S, Hachette, and Macmillan (above) don’t have that much money. Publishers usually end up making a less favorable deal, which is what we see here. I also find that Apple settlement laughable. If Apple’s MFN policy was wrong, then why does its wrongness end in early 2020, only three years from now?

These MFN clauses also strike me as stupid. If ebook retailers pay the same or similar royalties on each sale, there’s little reason for authors or publishers to mudde their marketing with differing prices. The fears of Amazon and Apple about getting stuck with higher prices are mere paranoia—that and corporate bullying.
Unfortunately, they’re assisted by all the authors who seem willing to put up with any abuse to keep their books in the major stores. The old adage about "the pen is mightier than the sword" doesn’t take into account just how spineless many pen-bearers are.

I’m currently reading Volker Ullrich’s massive Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939. It’s disturbing how easily the Nazis got most German institutions to march in lockstep and revealing where the exceptions lay.

Two professions, journalism and Volkschule teachers (roughly equivalent to our public school teachers), coordinated with the regime so eagerly, Rust, education mininster and Goebbels, propaganda minister, told them to calm down, that they didn’t need to be that rabid. In the case of schools, Rust said teachers should stick to the usual subjects and leave the indoctrination to the Hitler Youth. In the case of journalists, Goebbels said was OK for there to be differences and occasional disagreements with the regime. Goebbels did not want a free press, but he did want one that sounded free.

The one segment of German society that Nazism never succeeded in coordinating were the Catholic and Protestant churches. Hitler was forced to put off his settling of scores with them until after the war. There was also some covert resistance in the military. But on close inspection their objections seem to be more about Hitler getting them into a war they couldn’t win rather than moral objections about one that was blatently aggressive.

Even more scary, in Bloodlands, Timothy Snyder reveals that the German army’s original plan for their attack on the USSR in June 1941 assumed a quick victory that’d be followed by the impoundment of food of such a massive scale that millions of East Europeans would starve to death in the winter of 1941-42. Only the inability of the German armies to defeat the Soviet army prevented that horrid scheme.

What about German writers? A few resisted, either by not writing or, if they were as famous as Thomas Mann, immigrating. But most toed the line. Like I suggested above, the pen is often wielded by limp wrists and weak spines. That’s why I find this letter to writers from the executive director of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) hilariously clueless. It illustrates all too well the words Shakespeare has Julius Caesar say: "Cowards die many times before their death. The valiant never taste of death but once." Fleeing where none pursue is not a mark of the brave.

Posturing a defense of free speech against an "executive order" from Trump is imagining threats where none exist. It’s the fake dying of the constantly fearful. That’s the Way of the Cowrad. We’ve probably not had a president since Theodore Roosevelt who relishes controversy and delights more in criticism than Trump. It was the vain and thin-skinned president before him who turned the IRS on his foes and its a similarly weak-kneed press during those years who raised no objections to that.

In summary, the major book retailers such as Amazon (paying only 35% outside $2.99-9.99) and Apple (MFN clauses) are certainly mistreating writers. But the real cause isn’t that government agencies aren’t intervening enough. It’s that most writers are too spineless to make legitimate demands. At best, with many of them it’s "Please, Mr. Amazon, could I have more gruel."

Pitiful, really pitiful.

–Michael W. Perry, co-author of Lily’s Ride, a novel about a brave girl who takes on a hundred Klansman on dark roads at night armed only with a pistol and a fast horse. It’s a modern adaptation of one of the bestselling novels of the late nineteenth century—a novel written by a truly brave Union soldier, Republican judge, civil rights lawyer, and successful writer, Albion Tourgee. He’s a writer I respect.ée

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