updated 01:22 pm EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Last prong of three-spoke trial initial hearing held in front of skeptical judge
A nine-year-old lawsuit over Apple's digital rights management in the iTunes Music Store and on the iPod rages on. Lawyers for the complainants continue to claim that changes in iTunes blocking other companies' music stores from functioning on the iPod allowed Apple to raise prices. The $350 million lawsuit against the Cupertino manufacturer had a hearing earlier this week, following the retirement of the first judge in the case.
The remaining issue in the case is the sole survivor of three facets, and it faces a skeptical judge. "One of the big issues that I have with the plaintiffs' case in the current posture is, what am I supposed to be trying? Who is going to testify? Why are there no customer surveys?" queried Judge Gonzalez Rogers. Most of the hearing was trial history recap for the new judge.
Plaintiff's last chance at an antitrust ruling comes after a 2006 shift in iOS device management, locking out a Real Networks music store. Real had figured out a way around Apple's DRM on iPods with its Harmony DRM wrapper tool, and music purchased from the Real Music store was temporarily able to play on Apple's ubiquitous device. A software patch to the iPod broke that functionality.
Attorney Bonny Sweeney for the plaintiffs claimed that she had documents reaching all the way up to Steve Jobs who was "shocked and alarmed" at the RealPlayer Music store's launch. The documents purport that Real's store in 2004 threatened Apple, and the update in 2006 disabling the Real store was intentional and malicious.
Apple attorney Robert Mittelstaedt argued that "they just don't have any evidence at all" that consumers were actually harmed by the shift, pointing to a ruling from one of the other aspects of the case from 2006, saying that Apple had the right to prevent its products from being cross-compatible with competition's devices. Mittelstaedt claimed that the analyst working for the prosecution was "just making assumptions that are contrary to what the real world shows" regarding financial impact of the shift, and in fact that should Real have not had digital rights management on the music they sold, that the songs could still have been played on the then-new iPod.
The judge has yet to rule on this initial hearing. No date has been set for a possible trial.