Apple faces suit over “illegal” iTunes Monopoly

itunes_logo.jpgThings just keep getting better for Apple on the legal front…

According to the Associated Press Apple is facing a lawsuit that claims they have built an illegal monopoly due to the copy-protection system that generally prevents iTunes music and video from playing on rival players…Likewise, songs purchased elsewhere aren’t easily playable on iPods. The plaintiff is seeking unspecified damages and other relief. On the 20th of December, the court denied Apple’s motion to dismiss the complaint. The case was originally filed on July 21.

Does this case have merit?

I don’t know. I’m not a legal expert. Obviously the court feels there is some justification in the suit, but I’m not convinced that Apple has created an illegal monopoly here. Most iPods are not filled with iTunes purchased music. According to the New York Times, there are only 22 iTunes downloaded songs per iPod sold. That’s hardly a monopoly on the digital music revolution.

Plus, a key factor in the case seems to be that “songs purchased elsewhere aren’t easily playable on iPods”…that’s because of DRM, not Apple. Any songs purchased on CD and ripped are easily playable on an iPod, and DRM free services like eMusic.com are also as easy to play on iPods as anything downloaded from iTunes.

Is it Apple’s fault that other companies DRM their music so it can’t easily be played on iPods? Of course not.

Is it Apple’s fault that iTunes content can only be played on iPods? Sure…and if Apple ever has to change that policy as a result of this (or any other lawsuit) will that affect iPod sales? No. Will it affect iTunes sales? Somehow I doubt it.

If companies want their content played on iPods, all they have to do is get rid of the DRM. There is no monopoly here…as far as I can see.

Do you have a different opinion? I’d love to hear it in the comments below.

Update:  For the record, a monopoly is defined as “Exclusive control by one group of the means of producing or selling a commodity or service”.  Apple does not have exclusive control over the music played on iPods.  They do not have exclusive control over the mp3 player market.

The only thing Apple has “exclusive” control over is the fact that iTunes purchased content can only be played on iTunes compatible devices such as Windows PCs, Macs, iPods, and certain portable phones.

The question is…is that illegal?

Comments

  1. iPods can play any .mp3 audio — one needn’t ever have the Apple codec that contains digital rights management.

    It is a trivial issue to get around Apple’s DRM. All one needs to do is (deleted to reduce any culpability I might have in recommending a procedure that allows copying and getting sued by the RIAA and MPAA).

    With respect to video, all one needs is to encode video from any source to the h.263 codec used by the iPod Video (something I have not done as I son’t have a video-capable iPod.

    Apple may easily argue that their DRM-encoded material is not a “commodity.” It’s specially-encoded to protect rights and sold at a price that is not artificially high. One does not ever have to use the ITMS to put audio and video on one’s iPod and one can extract the materials purchased on the ITMS for play on other devices that allow generic music and video playback using a freely-available codec.

    The suit is without merit and a test to see if Apple may be branded a monopolist (doubtful).

  2. Personally, I am a discouraged when it comes to iTune’s copyright protection. I can appreciate Apple protecting artists and labels, however, there has to be a line drawn somewhere that allows users to pass music as we all used to. When I was a child I was given a cdrom from my uncle, “Poison: Native Tongue.” This was hilarious at the time, my first crazy rock audio cd, however, I still have that CD and maybe I’ll give it to my kids someday, however, all of my iTune’s music is pretty much lost.

    I can’t pass my music down as the generation before could. Same conflict with iTune’s video, I purchase television shows from iTunes because I’m not a big fan of actual television. However, I am only able to download these videos one time and I have to back them up, which is fine, but is a nuisance. I understand Apple not wanting to waste money on repeat downloaders hogging bandwidth, makes sense. Yet, why can’t I burn my television episodes to a DVD and watch them on a projector perhaps, do I have to use my Macbook all the time?

    I think with minor improvements to Apple’s copyright policy, things could be fantastic. No one is really rivaling iTune’s for the online music distribution market share, they have it pretty well covered; thanks to labels and exclusive bands. All it will take is another company, a moderate amount of investment and some great minds to come up with something that will force Apple to re-think its current policy.

    Other than that, I still use iTunes….

  3. Fisch, BN, Germany says:

    >

    This is indeed the ONLY qustion, the rest of the article is smoke ,-)

  4. Fisch, BN, Germany says:

    The ONLY question quote again:

    The only thing Apple has “exclusive” control over is the fact that iTunes purchased content can only be played on iTunes compatible devices such as Windows PCs, Macs, iPods, and certain portable phones.

    The question is…is that illegal?

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