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iPod owners contacted in lawsuit over iTunes monopoly

updated 01:48 pm EDT, Wed May 9, 2012

Traces back to Apple attempt to break Real Harmony

People who bought an iPod classic, shuffle, touch, or nano between September 12th, 2006 and March 31st, 2009 are being notified that they could participate in a pending class action lawsuit, reports say. Emails are being sent out this week referring people to, for extra details, even though there has been no settlement or ruling. The suit was originally filed by Thomas Slattery in 2005, based on an incident in 2004, when RealNetworks released software called Harmony.

The app allowed music from Real's online store to be transferred to an iPod, something Apple's ecosystem blocked at the time. Circumventing the restriction prompted an angry response; towards the end of the year, the company in fact updated its iPod firmware in a way that broke Harmony. Prior to then it had accused Real of using "the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break the iPod," hinting to the public that it was "highly likely" future firmware would disrupt Harmony's use.

The lawsuit accuses Apple of violating federal antitrust laws, as well as California's unfair competition law, since the company essentially mandated that the iTunes Store was the only digital storefront an iPod was compatible with. Since then, though, Apple has removed all DRM restrictions from iPods and iTunes, even if the iTunes software is usually required to sync iOS devices.

The lawsuit has progressed extremely slowly until recently. Last year, a judge overseeing the lawsuit allowed narrow questioning of then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs. This month a pair of unsuccessful settlement meetings have been held, as well as a case management conference on May 2nd. Judge James Ware has said that Apple has the right to file a motion for summary judgment if it wants to address topics yet to be brought in front of court; this would have to come after the plaintiffs finally submit an "outstanding expert" report. On May 20th, both sides will have to meet and arrange a schedule "with respect to any further disruptive motions that any party may seek to file."

People contacted about participating in the class action are by default included in the class. They must actively request to be excluded, though there are no serious obligations in remaining involved.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I can't believe this

    dumb a** suit is still open.

    The customer has the right to choose a different product. There were several at the time this suit was brought.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    This is what happens when you let the plaintiffs and defendants overload the courts with large filings and such, you know the thing people are complaining that judges aren't allowing in other apple lawsuits, but that's when Apple is throwing all those things at the court, rather than the other side...

  1. sibeale1

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Am I following the logic correctly here? If I purchase a PC, can I sue the manufacturer because it can't run Apple software? If I buy a Ford, can I sue because Chevrolet parts don't fit?

  1. jcarr

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Frivolous Litigation

    I don't see how this issue could possibly be Apple's fault. At no time did Apple ever block any company from selling music (DRM-free MP3 or AAC) that could be played on the iPod. REAL chose not to sell DRM-free music, and used an unlicensed FairPlay clone. They took the risk, and paid the price.

  1. Geoduck

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I got one

    Arrived yesterday. I deleted it immediately. First the suit is frivolous garbage. Second if they do get a settlement then the plaintiffs will get a buck and a quarter while the ambulance chasing scumbags get millions.

  1. facebook_Jeff

    Via Facebook

    Joined: May 2012



    More money from apple to pay for galaxy nexus! First magsafe charger and now this!

  1. psdenno

    Joined: Dec 1969



    ....could always pay any settlement costs with overseas funds that they can't bring back to the States without heavy tax consequences. Let RealNetworks try to figure out how to do it.

  1. Koda

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I'd be more interested

    in finding out how these people got a list of individuals that purchased iPods and their email addresses. I bought an iPod touch in that time period and never received any email about a lawsuit.

  1. UmarOMC

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Apple kept prices low

    ...even though the recording industry wanted to suck its user base dry. I'll pass.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Apple kept prices low

    ...even though the recording industry wanted to suck its user base dry. I'll pass.

    And Amazon tried the same thing with eBook pricing and Apple came in and helped push them upwards!

    Apple only wanted to keep prices low because it helped them. Just like they wanted to join forces with the book publishers against Amazon. It wasn't about 'fair', it was about 'securing a market'.

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