A Job well done: Apple wins decade-old iTunes update suit

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Dec 18, 2014 02:49 IST

A California jury on Tuesday rejected a lawsuit, which accused Apple of monopolistic practices, by technologically preventing iPod and iTune customers to buy from rival companies.

The case has been in courts for 10 years and included a surreal deposition from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs three years after his death — in a video recording.

A copyright protection feature in iPods and songs sold through iTunes between 2006 and 2009 blocked out rival devices and songs from other online stores, plaintiffs said. Every time rivals made their products compatible to this feature, called FairPlay, Apple sprinted ahead with software updates that had exactly the same wall-effect.

The jury, however, took only three hours to rule them as innovations that improved the device, iPods, and the store, iTunes.

FairPlay is no longer in use.

The feature was developed by Apple to prevent piracy, a major worry for the music industry at the time with Napster and Kazaa allowing free downloading and copying.

Songs sold on iTunes came encoded with this technology, which was also installed in iPods. But these songs couldn’t be played on rival devices such as Microsoft’s Zune. Also, music bought from rival online music stores — such as RealPlayer — couldn’t be played on iPod. The competition was effectively blocked out, therefore.

However, plaintiffs, who had sought $350 million in damages, were found to be not too well prepared.

Two individuals leasing for plaintiffs were found to have opened iPods that didn’t belong to the FairPlay period. Another never got to depose.

“There’s not one piece of evidence of a single individual who lost a single song, not even a complaint about it,” Apple’s lawyer William Isaacson said.

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