The Tech News Blog

February 20, 2013

Amazon, Publishers Face Class-Action Suit Over E-book ‘Monopoly’

Amazon Kindle

A trio of independent bookstores this week filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon its largest publishing partners over their use of digital rights management (DRM) technology to create what the plaintiffs claim is a monopoly on the sale of e-books in the United States.

Along with Amazon, the "Big Six" publishing houses—Random House, Penguin, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan—are named in the suit, according the Huffington Post, which published a copy of the class-action complaint on Wednesday.

Last Friday, Albany, N.Y.-based Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Greenville, S.C.-based Fiction Addiction, and New York City-based Posman Books filed the suit in New York on behalf of "all independent brick-and-mortar bookstores who sell e-books," the Huffington Post reported.

At issue are the DRM locks Amazon places on e-books purchased for its Kindle e-readers which prevent users from transferring their purchase to another e-reading device like the Barnes & Noble Nook or another computing platform entirely. The major publishers named in the suit all utilize Amazon's AZW DRM on e-books they sell through Amazon, though two of Macmillian's imprints, Tor and Forge, do not, according to the news site.

The independent book sellers who brought the complaint claim that none of the Big Six publishers have entered into an agreement with any U.S.-based independent bookstore to sell e-book versions of titles they publish, essentially giving Amazon, and to a lesser extent Barnes & Noble and Apple, a monopoly position in the e-book market relative to the independents.

May 26, 2012

Microsoft’s New Terms of Service to Block Class Action Suits

Microsoft Office logo

Microsoft said late Friday that the company has begun changing its user agreements to prevent consumers from filing class-action lawsuits against the company.

In a blog post authored by Jim Fielden, the assistant general counsel at Microsoft, the company said that it would take advantage of a 2011 Supreme Court case, AT&T Mobility vs. Concepcion, that allows companies to settle a complaint either privately or via small claims court, but can prevent the plaintiff from forming a class for a class action lawsuit.

Microsoft said that it had already updated the user agreement of its Xbox Live service to put its new legal strategy in place, and would extend that practice to other products and services over the next few months. That agreement, updated last December, drew the ire of columnist John Dvorak, who dubbed the provision part of the "boilerplate crap" that dominates user agreement. Dvorak said that those included "shrink wrap licensing deal" that bound the consumer if he or she opened a software package.

Sony also changed its terms of service in reaction to the law, giving it the sort of legal protection that it did not originally enjoy after hackers forced it to take down its PlayStation Network service last year.

March 29, 2012

iPhone 4 Owners Can Now Collect $15 ‘Antennagate’ Settlement

Apple iPhone 4 owners who did not collect a free bumper from Apple following the so-called "Antennagate" scandal can now collect their $15 settlement payment.

Users can file a claim for their cash payout at the website, which just went live. According to the site, iPhone 4 owners have from now until Aug. 28 to file a claim.

The settlement is available to original iPhone 4 owners living in the U.S. who purchased the device on or before Feb. 17, 2012 and experienced antenna and reception issues. Those who already received a bumper or case from Apple are not eligible for the cash settlement.

Some 25 million owners of iPhone 4 smartphones make up the class in the recently settled "Antennagate" lawsuit. The settlement combined 18 individual lawsuits into one, and claimed Apple misrepresented itself by, "concealing material information in the marketing, advertising, sale, and servicing of its iPhone 4—particularly as it relates to the quality of the mobile phone antenna and reception and related software."

January 17, 2012

Netflix Investors File Class-Action Suit Over ‘Inflated’ Stock Prices

A group of shareholders filed a class-action suit against Netflix earlier this month, accusing the company of concealing business details, which resulted in artifically inflated stock prices.

Netflix "issued materially false and misleading statements regarding [its] business practices and its contracts with content providers," according to the lawsuit, which was filed by the City of Royal Oak Retirement System in California district court. "Specifically, defendants concealed negative trends in Netflix's business."

According to the suit, Netflix had short-term contracts with content providers that were set to expire and increase in price. Netflix "faced a Hobbesian choice to renegotiate the contracts in 2011 at much higher rates or not renew them at all."

As a result, Netflix opted to raise prices, according to the lawsuit, but failed to keep shareholders in the loop. In mid-July, Netflix de-linked its streaming and DVD services, so subscribing to one DVD at a time and unlimited streaming would be $7.99 each per month rather than $9.99 for both. Later, Netflix announced plans to further separate those businesses; the DVD business would be known as Qwikster and streaming would remain as Netflix. Amidst user backlash, however, Netflix reversed course on that.