Jury Says Apple DRM Not An Antitrust Violation

from the which-is-probably-right dept

We’ve written a few times about the long-standing class action lawsuit against Apple over whether its DRM efforts, designed to block out RealNetworks’ attempt to reverse engineer a way into the iPod, violated antitrust law. As we noted recently, despite the case going on for years, the class action lawyers who brought the lawsuit ran into a bit of a stumbling block recently when it came out that none of the named plaintiffs were actually in the class, having purchased iPods outside the window which the class covered. The judge let the lawyers find a new plaintiff just a few days ago, but it certainly looks like the rotating plaintiffs issue may have helped Apple. The jury wasted little time in siding with Apple and saying that there was no antitrust violation. Apple’s lawyers played up the plaintiff problem:

?There?s not one piece of evidence of a single individual who lost a single song, not even a complaint about it,? said William Isaacson, Apple?s lead lawyer in the case. ?This is all made up at this point.?

There was a lot of interesting side notes to this case, but the failure of the class action lawyers to have an actual plaintiff was a pretty big deal — and basically made it clear that these lawyers were just in this for the money, rather than to right some sort of wrong.

And, while I’m generally interested in the idea that DRM could potentially be seen as anti-competitive, the fact that this case was about iTunes and RealNetworks kind of highlights how infrequently antitrust law makes sense in the tech industry. The entire digital music ecosystem has changed dramatically since the case began. While iTunes is certainly still a big player, it’s facing serious competition on a variety of different fronts including from streaming services like Spotify (one reason why Apple purchased Beats Music). Competition comes in all different ways, and even if you’re dominant today, it doesn’t mean you’ll be dominant very long.

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Companies: apple

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Comments on “Jury Says Apple DRM Not An Antitrust Violation”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Fairly disappointed

Given how often Techdirt talks about “chilling effects”, I’m pretty disappointed that you haven’t made more of the fact that Apple’s DRM made using anything except iTunes a very risky prospect.
Sure, nobody got harmed directly by this case, but only because using a non-iTunes service to try and invade Apple’s walled garden was a mug’s game in the first place. It still is, for the most part.


Re: Re: Fairly disappointed

Those other portable music players suffered from the same vendor lock problem that still plagues a Macintosh. The bulk of the available content is/was tied to the market leader and unusable on any other device. For awhile there it did in fact look like Apple had a genuine monopoly on “digital music” sales.

The only thing that really stopped it is the fact that the MPAA realized that they were having an IBM moment an they need to kill off their version of Microsoft.

The upstream content cartel reacted so badly to the idea of a downstream distribution monopoly that they got rid of DRM entirely.

This case is only obsolete because another entrenched interest decided things needed to change.

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