Former iTunes engineer describes Apple’s ‘secret war’ against DRM hackers

“A former iTunes engineer testified in a federal antitrust case against Apple Friday that he worked on a project ‘intended to block 100% of non-iTunes clients’ and ‘keep out third-party players’ that competed with Apple’s iPod,” Jeff Elder reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“Plaintiffs subpoenaed the engineer, Rod Schultz, to show that Apple tried to suppress rivals to iTunes and iPods,” Keizer reports. “Schultz testified in an untucked dress shirt and leather jacket, saying he was an unwilling witness… The plaintiffs sought to submit a 2012 academic paper Schultz wrote citing ‘a secret war’ Apple fought with iTunes hackers. In the paper, he wrote, ‘Apple was locking the majority of music downloads to its devices.’ Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers did not admit the paper as evidence in the case.”

“Outside the courtroom Schultz said the early work of his former team reflected the digital-music market’s need for copyright protections of songs,” Keizer reports. “Apple argues – and Schultz agreed in court Friday – that it released many improvements to iTunes, and not isolated changes to stifle competition. Apple says the security measures that Schultz worked on were designed to protect its systems and users’ experience, which would have been compromised by other players and file formats.”

Read more in the full article here.

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  1. A secret war? Gosh come on this was Real Networks, there was nothing secret about it. Ever try to remove Real Player from a PC? Heck it was like trying to stop sadists from torturing and rectal feeding. Besides, look where Real is from, you know how they are always at war, they live to kill others, heck it’s in their headlines all the time “secret war against Goliath” is the flavor of the day.

    I just peace and love will just have to be legal in civilized countries of the free world….secretly.

    1. As I recall, RealPlayer was sometimes considered malware and adware in some commercial anti-adware of the period because of the problems it caused on PCs. It was almost impossible to remove from systems . . . it left pieces of itself hanging all around the registry.

  2. The whole premise is bullshit.

    I bought my first songs on iTunes the day the store was up and running in the United States. There was not and is not any anti-competitive lock on audio content sold by Apple through the iTunes store.

    Even when tracks were in FairPlay AAC they could be exported to CD (AIFF) format and burned to disc on any Windows PC or Macintosh with iTunes installed. Once transferred to AIFF they could be played on any CD player available and could then be freely copied to any digital player after transcoding.

    Not sure about this point, but I believe the ability to export to MP3 from AAC came along not too long after the launch of the Windows version of iTunes.

    Currently sold audio content has no DRM.

  3. There should be absolutely no damages awarded in this trial.
    The previous trial that had Steve Jobs as a witness already decided that tying the iPod solely to iTunes and the iTunes store and excluding competitors was not illegal. The plaintiffs lawyers know they will get nowhere with that argument.

    The plaintiffs have had to change their tactics. They allege that Fairplay DRM tie in allowed Apple to exclude competitors, gain a monopoly and over charge for iPods by 7.5%. They paid a so called expert to write a report that calculates damages based on the price of iPods.
    Apple expert witnesses have already debunked the report and shown it had grave errors because it did not take into account new features added to new models.

    Fairplay DRM tie in had nothing to do with Apple gaining a monopoly. In fact the opposite should have happened, the least compatible, most expensive MP3 player should have had the lowest marketshare.

    Here is a report from 2006 that shows that the median or average household was purchasing 3 DRM tracks per year. That was why Steve Jobs wrote his famous ‘Thoughts on Music’ letter in 2007, he could see the writing was on the wall.

    The simple fact is the vast majority of people’s music libraries came from CDs & other sources. Apple didn’t kill competing stores, changing consumer attitudes did. Sales of music with DRM was dead at all online stores.

    The iPod became dominant because it was better than the majority of other players. iTunes although it had faults, made managing music libraries extremely easy. The iPod simply had the best ecosystem. It was also fashionable at the time, you weren’t ‘cool’ if you weren’t wearing the white earbuds.
    Apple has always been a premium brand as well. Apple Macs, iPods, iPads, iPhones and soon the Apple watches are more expensive than competing products.

    Some might argue the monopoly with iPods made them more expensive. However, iPhones, iPads and Macs don’t have a monopoly, so the price of Apple products is completely unrelated to marketshare.
    Apple have also always lowered the price of older products when new ones were released as well.

    It is also impossible to prove any correlation between iTunes store exclusivity and the price of iPods. The price of iPods would depend on dozens of factors. Price of components, number of new features, price of competing MP3 players for example.

    This evidence of Apple shutting out 100% of competitors is just a sideshow to turn the jury against Apple. It is irrelevant to the damages award.

    All the jury has to decide is if excluding Real’s Harmony tracks caused iPod prices to be inflated as a result. The simple fact is there is zero evidence of this.

    Apple did not overcharge for iPods by 7.5% There are no damages.
    Case Closed

    1. I am educated as an economist. I did not even have to do a major study to debunk the theory of this case. I did an analysis of just one model, the iPod Shuffle, of iPod during the period of this case based on data from I discovered that from the onset of the period they are suing over, to the conclusion, the iPod Shuffle DROPPED in price and increased in memory capacity and features. It started at $149 for 1GB, quickly dropped to $99 for the same 1GB and then later to $79 and then Apple increased the memory to 2GB.

      As for the abilities, the Attorney Plaintiffs (order intentional) they are focusing just two revisions of iTunes software, 7.0 and 7.4, both of which ushered in major functionality increases. Cover-flow, iPod games, gapless playback, and the ability to handle albums were added to the abilities with iTunes 7.0 on September 12, 2006 and all of those increased abilities overwrote any RealNetwork’s Codec installed and the vulnerability that may have existed in iTunes 6.x.

      Then here’s a biggie. On September 7, 2007, Apple updated iTunes 7.4 for the iPod TOUCH. . . the most major upgrade since the iPod was originally released. . . introducing support for a TOUCH SCREEN interface!

      Yet these bozo Attorney Plaintiffs claim the only purpose of these updates was to lock out RealNetwork’s DRMed music that had been hacked into the iPod. Right, sure.

  4. Why couldn’t Real Network consumers just use RealPlayer for listening to their music bought from Real? Why would Apple be required to create it’s competitors’ music player? I’m literally confused on how these open-palmed fools think they can get anything out of this beyond embarrassment and spankings.

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