Apple on trial: Were iTunes updates really an anti-consumer scheme?

“The Apple iTunes DRM trial underway in federal court here will come down to how jurors view certain code that Apple added to iTunes,” Joe Mullin writes for Ars Technica. “The plaintiffs, representing a class of about 8 million consumers as well as large retailers, say it was anything but an ‘upgrade.’ They’re seeking $351 million in damages.”

“In this lawsuit, the plaintiffs are contending that specific changes Apple made to iTunes 7.0 and 7.4 were anticompetitive,” Mullin writes. “Apple isn’t being sued for having DRM, per se, but for making tweaks to its DRM that made some forms of inter-operability, like Real Networks’ Harmony, stop working.”

“In his opening, Apple attorney William Isaacson stressed that the iTunes 7.0 and 7.4 updates in question were real product improvements, not a strategic decision to keep out Harmony,” Mullin writes. “When iTunes 7.0 and 7.4 were launched, among other changes, the company updated its encryption, he said. Real Networks’ reverse-engineering became ‘outdated’ because of those updates. ‘We changed the encryption because that’s what you do with encryption.'”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Steve Jobs on RealNetworks in 2011 deposition: ‘Do they still exist?’ – December 3, 2014
Steve Jobs said Apple took pains to protect record contracts – December 3, 2014
Star witness in Apple lawsuit is Steve Jobs – December 1, 2014
How to kill the DRM in your old iTunes Store music purchases – March 18, 2014
Apple asks judge to dismiss FairPlay lawsuit following Steve Jobs’ deposition – April 19, 2011
Apple’s iTunes Store goes DRM-free and 3G via iPhone; variable pricing coming soon – January 6, 2009
Major music cartels demand concessions from Apple before inking DRM-free iTunes Store music deals – December 15, 2008
RealNetworks ‘Harmony’ stops working on iPods but nobody notices for a month and a half – December 15, 2004
Real’s online petition for music ‘freedom’ backfires bigtime – August 17, 2004
Real cracks Apple’s Fairplay; to sell iPod-compatible songs without Apple’s authorization – July 25, 2004
Jobs to Glaser: Go pound sand – April 16, 2004


    1. Check the Apple product documentation. Tell me where it stated that you could install and play music from any source that you wanted, regardless of DRM, music format, etc. Apple protected itself from the record labels and also protected its iTunes turf from competitors.

      You can label that as anti-consumer, but you can say that about virtually any retail, for-profit operation. Companies are always trying to get as much as possible from consumers. Besides, anti-consumer actions are not necessarily subject to criminal or civil action. Iif they were, then nearly every company in the U.S. would be in line for court action.

    2. My post was not intended to refute your post, Wrong Again. It just supplements your assertion that “anti-consumer” is just a meaningless buzzword from a legal standpoint. There has to be a lot more to it.

      Take Microsoft, for instance. That company made all kinds of software revisions that disabled or crippled functionality and interoperability. They finally got nailed on their IE web browser actions, but all of the other stuff slid by without significant legal issues.

  1. Couldn’t you still take purchases from Real Networks and export them as MP3s, and then reimport them into iTunes??? It might be a bit inconvenient for users, but it wouldn’t be a real obstacle.

    Does anyone who purchased from Real Networks remember?

    1. You can take any sound file and strip the DRM if you’re willing to go through a lossy process, although some can be losslessly stripped as well.

      For the music purchased through Real Networks, it meant a lossy conversion going digital->analog->digital. Doable, kind of a hassle even if the quality loss wasn’t relatively insignificant.

    2. All you had to do was burn the mp3s to CD, then rip the CD to iTunes. But most people didn’t want to do that, myself included (not that I had any RealNetworks music). So we just dealt with DRM until Apple got rid of it.

    1. Yeah, another part of this is there was an accepted way of communicating with iTunes and presenting your device to iTunes as an iPod was not one of the accepted ways 🙂

  2. This would be a good time to have the RIAA step in to counter-sue Real for attempting to circumvent the DRM encryption they required Apple to put there in the first place. (Not really! I never liked the way they pushed everyone around, but it would be interesting to see here.)

  3. There was no momopoly…
    The consumer had a choice to buy many other mp3 player if they liked.
    Apple did what apple thinks is a good buisness model .. And never put a gun against anyones head to buy an ipod !
    And never stopped anyone from making mp3 players!

  4. To try and claim that Apple tweaking their encryption so a reverse engineered App stops working is illegal is beyond stupid.

    This case needs to be booted out, it’s pure ambulance chasing. Nothing more, nothing less.

  5. This is another farce for the courtroom. A brilliant commentary: “Gonzalez Rogers told the jurors that Real wasn’t a party to the case and ordered jurors not to consider why no company representative was testifying.”

    Uh huh, pay no attention tot that.

    Another beauty: “if consumers wanted to move their music library over to a competing MP3 player, the only solution would be to burn the songs on to CDs, transfer them to a computer, and then move them to the non-Apple music player.

    “That enhanced Apple’s monopoly power,” said Sweeney.”

    Well hate to break the obvious but that was the state for nearly all the DRM crap of the day.

    Up, it’s conquer and divide. No Amazon nor publishers, for the publishing case, no company representatives for the music case. It’s all about a money grab on Apple, heck can’t even make it a conspiracy it’s so blatant.

    Of course, it’s to be expected.

          1. Because consumers are claiming that Apple changed its software specifically to block music from other competitors from being synced with an iPod. I guess they don’t care that RealNetworks likely violated the law by reverse-engineering Apple’s software to permit its songs to work as iTunes-native songs. They also don’t seem to care that the RIAA and record labels required stringent DRM and that companies like Apple take measures to prevent it from being breached, you know, like RealNetworks reverse-engineering iTunes’ FairPlay protections.

  6. I remember very well those cat-and-mouse games between Real and Apple. Make no mistake about it: everyone back then was acutely aware that Apple’s iTunes updates had one major purpose: to disable the music bought outside the iTunes eco-system. Apple never said this, but if you look at MDN and postings on these forums back then, you’ll clearly see that all of us were cheering for Apple. And everyone supported Apple’s efforts to thwart Real.

    It will be difficult for Apple to prove that this wasn’t the primary goal of those ‘updates’.

  7. Apple’s goal at the time was to sell more iPods, not more iTunes music. I believe Apple’s aseertion that they had to protect the integrety of FairPlay in order to maintain their contracts with the record companies.

    If Real provided a mechanism to convert their songs to accepted non-DRM versions, then Apple would have had no issue. After all, the painful method of burning a CD and reimporting was always allowed in both directions.

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