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US indies launch DRM lawsuit

Three US independent bookshops have launched a lawsuit against the big six publishers and Amazon in America claiming that by signing a contract to sell e-books with DRM through Amazon, they are combining to restrict the sale of e-books through indie stores.

Fiction Addiction in South Carolina, Posman Books in New York [pictured] and Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza are taking the action against Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Random House, Macmillan and Amazon claiming that the publishers signed contracts with Amazon to sell e-books with DRM that was "specifically designed to limit the use of digital content" to Kindle devices, according to Publishers Lunch.

Their case, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges the publishers have not entered into any agreements with independent bricks-and-mortar or independent collectives to sell e-books.

"Consequently," the filing says, "the vast majority of readers who wish to read an e-book published by the Big Six will purchase the e-book from Amazon."

According to Publishers Lunch, the bookshops claim the publishers' contract with Amazon created "unreasonable restraint of trade and commerce in the market for e-books". They are asking the court for an injunction to remove Amazon's proprietary DRM from e-books published by the big six publishers, to be replaced by an "open source DRM". The filing also asked the court to prohibit Amazon "from selling DRM specific, or non-open-source, dedicated e-readers, alternative e-reader devices, and apps".

The bookshops¹ lawyer Alyson Decker from Blecher & Collins in Los Angeles said the lawsuit has specified the big six publishers but not smaller indies who have the same arrangement with Amazon because those publishers "collectively dominate the market share" and were "some of the first to enter into contracts with Amazon".

Amazon's share of the e-book market is 60%, according to the lawsuit.