The rampant stupidity of the Apple iPod antitrust suit

“How dumb is this Apple iPod antitrust suit?” Philip Elmer-DeWitt wonders for Fortune. “The trial proceeds without a plaintiff because most class action suits are for the benefit of lawyers, not customers.”

“Bonney Sweeney, the antitrust attorney at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd who claims to represent the interests of 8 million aggrieved Apple customers, now represents nobody but a roomful of lawyers,” P.E.D. reports. “Although U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers gave Sweeney until Tuesday to find a new plaintiff, the case may yet get tossed out on a technicality. That’s not what Apple — which should be able to win this one on the facts — says it wants.”

P.E.D. reports, “It may be what Sweeney et al. deserve.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Sweeney et al. should face significant penalties for wasting everyone’s time, including Steve Jobs’. Frivolous lawsuits in the U.S. should be punishable by law. And, can we please get a fscking judge with a clue for a change! Are there any left?

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Dan K.” and “JES42” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
News organizations fight to release Steve Jobs deposition video – December 9, 2014
Judge: Apple iPod trial will continue despite no plaintiff in case – December 9, 2014
Apple’s Eddy Cue explains why DRM for music was a necessary evil – December 5, 2014
Apple iPod judge asks if lack of plaintiff dooms trial – December 5, 2014
Apple on trial: Were iTunes updates really an anti-consumer scheme?
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. 8 million aggrieved Apple customers? No, just “potentially.” There were a lot of people who bought iPods, and a handful of them tried to use RealNetworks for music. When they couldn’t, most of those probably said something like, “Oh. That doesn’t work.” and moved on with their lives, suffering absolutely no damages. So it might be kind of difficult to find a plaintiff who potentially suffered damages. Where do you find someone? Put an ad on Craig’s List?

    Sweeney et al will be out a heck of a lot of billable hours, something lawyers detest, as well as looking like fools for how poorly they managed this case. That could adversely affect the firm’s future. We can hope.

    Class action suits are an accepted way to change corporate misbehavior, things like not telling consumers they knew their products were addicting and caused cancer, not for forcing Apple to let people put music from RealNetworks on their iPods. In such cases, consumers rarely win much individually, with most of the cash going to attorneys.

    1. I am feeling aggrieved! When I ‘factory reset’ my house from cassettes to CDs many of my mix tapes were ‘erased’ from my library. Perhaps there are 8 million others who were materially damaged by the switch from read/write music storage to read-only. If this law firm is successful against Apple I may take my $2.17 award and funnel it back to them to get going on this earlier transgression.


    2. Good point. The actual class is the subset of the 8 million iPod owners who actually tried to use TealNdtworks. Wonder how small that number is? Real always seemed pretty marginal and mostly a way to waste your time and money.

  2. Just for the sake of discussion, some speculative scenarios on the law (which I have not read) and the “plaintiffs” :

    The core complaint is that data is erased from iPods with songs from non-Tunes sources after “factory reset”.

    1. Apple’s side: Are there any non-trivial damages ? I think not.

    1a. The music is supposed to be backed up on computer (let’s ignore if downloaded directly from iTunes and never synced). If there’s trouble, let the songs be re-synced. Case dismissed or damaged be a few pennies per user.

    1b. Unable to sync ? Put the songs into MP3 format and sync. Actual damages to user ? Some time, but the songs are still there.

    1c. Unable to put into MP3 format ? This is not Apple’s problem. It’s the users and the source of the music.

    2a. The plaintiff’s: Apple should let every competing service use iPods, regardless of security concerns.

    2b. Moreover, Apple should sync all competing services and songs format and location on computer, regardless of source and regardless of cost.

    3. The viewpoint of the judge (3 scenarios)

    3a. The judge is letting the case go forward out of an abundance of caution.

    3b. The judge was lazy in finding the proper scenario of above and so the case is not dismissed.

    3c. The judge doesn’t understand 1) computer sync and 2) song formats.

    Conclusion: Popcorn time.

  3. This is just a friendly shakedown by the legal system. Who needs a victim! The victim wasn’t getting the money anyway.

    These lawyers are just in training for the opportunity to serve (themselves) in the state and federal senate.

    Does anyone not see the problem when a judge tells these clowns to find a victim so the can shakedown a company?

    1. I have to agree. The case should have been dismissed the second the judge heard there were no plaintiffs. They had way more time than they needed to get valid plaintiffs.

  4. Are people no longer being held responsible for their own actions? Shouldn’t you first find out whether it makes coffee before buying a toaster? If you see a round hole, shouldn’t it be obvious you cannot fit in a square peg? Since when is stupidity – though in this case it is greed and mischief – eligible for compensation?

    1. I can fit a square peg if it’s smaller than the round hole.

      Or, I should be able to chisel my round hole into a somewhat-square looking thing into which my square peg will fit. Aka jailbreaking.

  5. This is going to be a landmark case and turning point in the American psyche. Once this goes through I’m sure a big massive American carrier will unload an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, including possibly a few nukes into Iraq.

    Then we’ll see the headlines “Weapons of Mass Destruction Found in Iraq, US Justified in Invasion, Mission Accomplished, Torture a few more folks recommended”

    That last bit is for anyone who says that the Empire has no more clothes.

    Pass the popcorn Tetrachloride and let’s the watch the spin.

    1. My increasing view is that the lawyers will never have an extensive list of plaintiffs and because not a great amount of stuff was actually lost. (Naturally, I am speculating).

      Moreover, Apple’s lawyers have their own popcorn bowls.


  6. 1) iPods always played multiple (open) formats, including MP3, WAV, AIFF, MP4 (AAC).
    2) 90% of my music on my iPods always came from my own CDs. Ripped them into MP3s. Put on the iPod.
    3) Not once, with all the updates, have I ever lost my music, including files that were not necessarily MP3s, but others mentioned in point 1.
    4) REAL, a competing company, did some “reverse engineering” (read: hack) so that they’re shitty file types (.ra) would play on the iPod. They didn’t get Apple’s permission before doing so.
    5) REAL did not care that they didn’t have Apple’s blessing… their files were going onto the iPod anyway.
    6) It was never Apple’s responsibility to make .ra files work, any more than it would be Nintendo’s responsibility to get Playstation games working on its console.
    7) Even people who download MP3s from Napster and comparable services never lost their music.
    8) Every point here shows that the problem was a combination of user error and REAL’s insistence that their shitty, proprietary technology should work on Apple’s device.
    9) Have I proved the point that you technically only needed iTunes for the sake of connecting the iPod and transferring the music? Because if yyou didn’t get that impression, see points 1, 2, and 7 again.

    The lawyer(s) representing this nonsense have shown that they do ZERO research and just hope to make a quick buck by flinging shit against the wall and hoping something will stick.

    1. The real issue in the lawsuit was Apple refusing to license FairPlay to third parties, because (as Eddy Cue testified) it would create an entirely different set of problems, such as making sure FairPlay worked on others’ networks, third party media players, etc. over which Apple had no control.

      Apple said, “Screw that cluster**k” and kept FairPlay for itself.

    1. this present doj is creating a glaringly obvious pattern of harassment against apple. it will most likely continue and even escalate until every last wad of excrement (democrat) is flushed out of the White House

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