Real V. Apple DRM Antitrust Trial Testimony Begins

Posted by at 10:35 am on December 2, 2014

RealNetworks[1]The Apple versus Real anti-trust trial centering around Apple’s use of FairPlay DRM to block other music stores has begun, as expected. Lawyers for the complainants continue to claim that changes in iTunes blocking other companies’ music stores from functioning on the iPod allowed Apple to raise prices. Real’s attorneys seek $350 million in damages in the long-postponed suit that dates back nearly a decade. The trial, expected to last three weeks, is being held in the Oakland, CA federal courts.

The plaintiff’s last chance at an antitrust ruling comes after a 2006 shift in iOS device management, locking out a Real Networks music store. Real had figured out a way around Apple’s DRM on iPods with its Harmony DRM wrapper tool, and music purchased from the Real Music store was temporarily able to play on Apple’s ubiquitous device. A software patch to the iPod broke that functionality.

CEO Steve Jobs recorded a video deposition prior to his death in 2011, which the plaintiffs’ lawyers intend to use alongside emails written by the CEO. Jobs said in an email from the competitive Real store that “we need to make sure that when Music Match [sic] launches their download music store they cannot use iPod,” Jobs writes. “Is this going to be an issue?”

Jury selection took place prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. Among the selectees are a Google engineer who calls DRM the death of sharing. Apple fans, as well as ardent detractors of the Cupertino company, were struck.

It can be argued that Apple’s DRM was the main reason why the music labels agreed to a deal with Apple in the first place. Apple has since shifted to DRM-free music, and allows purchased music from other sources to be played through apps. The app concept on mobile devices didn’t really exist a decade ago during the time Real tried to force its way onto the iPod.

The trial has seen many developments in its history, despite taking so long to fully develop. The remaining charge is the last of three, with the previous two tossed by a now retired judge. While the current judge allowed the trial over strenuous objections by Apple, she took umbrage at the lack of consumer data complaining about the issue, and as of yet, little, if any, has been presented.

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