iPod owners join class action in anti-trust lawsuit against Apple

10 May, 2012 by Macworld Australia Staff
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An email from the US District Courts for the Northern District of California has been sent to iPod buyers, who purchased the device between 2006-2009, notifying them of their  involvement in a mass class action suit against Apple for alleged anti-competitive conduct in 2004.

The anti-trust lawsuit contests a firmware update released by Apple eight years ago, that prevented music not from iTunes from playing on the iPod. The class action automatically includes all US consumers who bought an iPod directly from Apple between September 12, 2006 and March 31, 2009.

The case was first lodged back in 2004 by company RealNetworks when it launched a new service called Harmony that enabled DRM’d music bought from the RealPlayer Music Store to play on the iPod. At the time (and still in effect today) Apple had placed  restrictions on the iPod that meant users could only play FairPlay DRM’d music from iTunes or unprotected formats, such as MP3. Harmony offered a workaround to the filter, providing users with open access. Apple was unhappy with the move and later responded by releasing a firmware update for the iPod, which blocked RealNetwork’s new service.

The software update angered several iPod buyers who filed a suit against Apple at the time, accusing the company of illegally blocking competition, which in turn, hiked the prices of its iPod line. For years the case was held up by processing in the legal system, until November 2011 when the District Court granted it class action status. Despite reports of Apple entering into settlement talks last month, the case is now forging ahead.

In the District Court’s email, the board advises iPod owners of the class action, the pending case and their subsequent involvement in the proceedings, reports Ars Technica.

The iPods models that are included in the class definition include iPod nanos (first, second, third and fourth generations), iPod touches (second and third generations), iPod shuffles (first, second and third generations) and standard/classic iPods (fifth generation, U2 Special Editions, and iPod Classics).

Apple had not commented on the case at the time of publication.

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