You've likely heard by now that the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice sued Apple and a bunch of e-book publishers for fixing prices on, well, e-books.

You can see the complaint here.

The key part comes in paragraph 7, which explains Apple's "agency" plan for thwarting Amazon's effort to cut all e-book prices to $9.99 thus:

The plan — what Apple proudly described as an "aikido move" — worked. Over three days in January 2010, each Publisher Defendant [and Apple] entered into a functionally identical agency contract . . . that would go into effect simultaneously in April 2010 and "chang[e] the industry permanently." These "Apple Agency Agreements" conferred on the Publisher Defendants the power to set Apple's retail prices for e-books, while granting Apple the assurance that the Publisher Defendants would raise retail e-book prices at all other e-book outlets, too. Instead of $9.99, electronic versions of bestsellers and newly released titles would be priced according to a set of price tiers contained in each of the Apple Agency Agreements that determined de facto retail e-book prices as a function of the title's hardcover list price. All bestselling and newly released titles bearing a hardcover list price between $25.01 and $35.00, for example, would be priced at $12.99, $14.99, or $16.99, with the retail e-book price increaasing in relation to the hardcover list price.

The tying of the e-book price to the hardcover list price had the effect of letting the publishers leverage their power over list prices in the hardcover realm into the e-book space. So the theory goes.

The DOJ doesn't ask for damages, just declaratory and equitable relief that would get rid of the Apple Agency Agreements.

The move comes months after private parties filed a slew of cases alleging the same section 1 violation of the Sherman Act. And they for sure DO seek damages. Lots of them. Three times lots of them even.