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E-books trial judge vows light injunction against Apple, plans to require external monitor

The district court judge presiding over Apple's e-books antitrust case said on Tuesday that she plans to require the company take on an external antitrust monitor, but expects the final terms of the injunction to not restrict other facets of the iTunes business.

According to in-court reports from Reuters, U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote said the final remedy in Apple's lost case will be narrower than a set of injunctions proposed by the Department of Justice.

"I want this injunction to rest as lightly as possible on how Apple runs its business," Judge Cote said at Tuesday's hearing.

While Judge Cote's final ruling will ensure Apple does not again collude with publishers to fix e-book prices, the jurist does not plan to restrict current arrangements with suppliers of other digital content like movies and music. The DOJ was seeking such remedies when it floated a list of potential penalties earlier in August.

In another blow to the Justice Department's sought remedies, Judge Cote found a provision that would allow apps to link out to their own digital bookstores without paying a sales commission to Apple "unnecessary." Apple argued that the DOJ request would unduly give other e-bookstores, specifically market leader Amazon, a competitive advantage over the iBookstore.

Apple will, however, most likely be required to bring in a monitor to oversee the company's antitrust compliance program. Judge Cote said the monitor is necessary due to the company's "blatant" antitrust violations. Apple previously argued against such action, citing undue cost and burden.

Both parties are compromising on the final terms, with Apple already agreeing to certain proposed remedies, such as a staggering of negotiations with e-book providers, while the DOJ adjusted a proposed ten year injunction to five years.

Judge Cote is expected to issue the injunction next week.

The ruling won't be the end of a bumpy e-books antitrust road for Apple, however, as the company still faces an associated damages trial that could see plaintiffs DOJ and 33 U.S. states and territories awarded hundreds of millions of dollars. Hearings for that trial are slated for May 2014.