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.

Filed Under: antitrust, class action lawsuits, drm, innovation, ipods, technology
Companies: apple


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2014 @ 3:57pm

    It an improvement

    One of the questions for the jury was whether the new version of iTunes represented an improvement in the software. Well, I've never owned an iPod, but it did things like album art, video, and other stuff I can't remember. Yeah, that's a big improvement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    madasahatter (profile), 17 Dec 2014 @ 7:35pm

    Competition

    iTunes always has had competition and still does from a variety of sources for music purchasing. Only in a very narrow sense could iTunes be considered a monopoly; in the sense that any ecosystem tends to limit access to outsiders. But there are other ways to buy and listen music besides iTunes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2014 @ 1:26am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2014 @ 6:00am

      Re: Fairly disappointed

      How is that a chilling effect?
      There were, and still are, other portable MP3 player options on the market. That would only be a chilling effect if the ipod is the only available one. And it obviously isn't. In fact I have literally never owned one.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        JEDIDIAH, 18 Dec 2014 @ 10:37am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Frok (profile), 19 Dec 2014 @ 12:39am

      re: because using a non-iTunes service

      Is only possible for non-Lemmings?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2014 @ 6:26am

    By its very nature, DRM is anti-trust.

    The consumer trusts the corporation to not screw them over and then what does the corporation do?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 18 Dec 2014 @ 6:58am

    Funny, I read Apple DRM and pictured a piece of fruit with a Keurig label on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Frok (profile), 19 Dec 2014 @ 12:36am

    voir dire insufficiency

    Not enough votes to voir dire away troglodytes [those who believe sms texting is wise-, or appropriately priced]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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