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Apple Faces Yet Another eDiscovery-Aided Antitrust Suit

By William Peacock, Esq. on December 02, 2014 12:26 PM

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Apple is being sued for anticompetitive behavior, and the evidence includes an email from the late Steve Jobs.

Yep. It's the e-book antitrust lawsuit all over again, except this time, the claims are swirling around the company's legendary iPod and related iTunes service. When the products were launched, the two were inseparable: Only iTunes music files would play on iPods.

Lawyers say this is anticompetitive behavior. Apple said that the record companies forced it to use the security measures. According to 9 to 5 Mac, Steve Jobs allegedly said this in a 2003 email:

We need to make sure that when Music Match launches their download music store they cannot use iPod. Is this going to be an issue?

All About Apple's DRM

DRM stands for digital rights management. It's basically copy protection and in Apple's case, it meant that its files could only be played on its products: iTunes, iPods, etc. Due to the popularity of iPods, third parties like RealNetworks and MusicMatch wanted to sell compatible files, but Apple would not license out its DRM technology, reports CNET.

RealNetworks reverse-engineered it in 2004. Apple updated its iTunes and iPods to block RealNetworks' songs. RealNetworks adjusted. Apple did too. Back and forth. Eventually, European authorities began to look into Apple's behavior.

By 2007, Apple changed its tune and began campaigning publicly against DRM, which it said was forced upon it by record labels. DRM was history by 2009.

What's at Stake?

Very, very little. If you bought an iPod between September 12, 2006, and March 31, 2009, you're probably included in the class action lawsuit, which alleges that Apple pushed updates to iTunes for no good reason other than to block third-party music files.

For Apple, the plaintiffs are only seeking $350 million. For a company that, according to CNET, generates about $500 million a day in sales, that's not really that big of a number. Odds seem high that this will settle for a pittance in the near future.

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