Print 48 comment(s) - last by macthemechanic.. on Mar 26 at 11:17 AM

RealNetworks raises serious questions about Apple's tactics with iTunes

An order issued earlier this week by a federal magistrate judge will require Apple CEO Steve Jobs to answer questions regarding an iTunes antitrust suit.

ITunes, Apple's proprietary digital media player application, was launched in 2003. It became wildly successful, even beating Wal-Mart as the biggest music retailer in April 2008. 

But according to RealNetworks, a Seattle-based provider of Internet media software and services, iTunes allegedly utilized unfair practices in the digital media industry between October 2004 and March 2009. In july 2004, RealNetworks announced that its online store offered music that could be used on iPods through a technology called Harmony. Five days later, Apple released updates to its iPod FairPlay software, which is a proprietary software used by Apple to encode its digital music files. The iPod FairPlay software allowed iTunes music files to be used only on iPods, and blocked digital music sold by other companies to be played on the iPod. This included RealNetworks' digital files.

In 2005, Thomas Slattery, an iTunes customer, filed a lawsuit on behalf of customers who believe Apple "illegally limited consumer choice" by making iTunes exclusively for iPod and vice versa. He asserted antitrust claims from Apple's use of the FairPlay software. 

In 2008, Apple faced the same issues with consumers in Europe who complained about the lack of compatibility with iTunes and the iPod. The European Union Competition Commission started an inquiry in 2005, where regulators from Norway, Denmark and Sweden examined the situation. As a result, Apple lowered the prices of iTunes tracks in the United Kingdom. 

In March 2009, iTunes began selling digital music without the proprietary software, and in May 2010, the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division began looking into Apple's business practices associated with iTunes and the iPod. 

Now, U.S. Magistrate Judge Howard R. Lloyd in San Jose, California has issued an order that allows lawyers for consumers to question Jobs. The deposition can only consist of questions regarding Apple's software changes made in October 2004, which prevented digital tracks from RealNetworks from being played on the iPod. In addition, the deposition can only be two hours long.

"The court finds that Jobs has unique, non-repetitive, firsthand knowledge about the issues at the center of the dispute over RealNetworks software," said Lloyd. 

Lloyd also declined requests from the plaintiff to question Jobs regarding Apple's refusal to license FairPlay to other companies as well as the companies use of the software on digital tracks from iTunes and the iPod. Both claims were dismissed from the litigation in December 2009.

"Plaintiffs remaining claims rely on the allegation that Apple attempted to maintain a monopoly in the audio download and portable music player market by issuing updates to FairPlay, Apple's proprietary digital rights management software," said David Kiernan, Apple's attorney. 

Also, Kiernan noted that "any deposition of Mr. Jobs would be repetitive, at best."

A deposition has not been scheduled yet, according to San Diego lawyer Bonny E. Sweeney, who is representing the plaintiffs, but a hearing regarding Apple's motion to dismiss the case is scheduled for April 18. 

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Not really...
By Motoman on 3/23/2011 11:27:25 AM , Rating: 5
...sure, Apple does everything they can to make sure you get stuck in their infinite loops...

...but the consumers who perpetually waltz in and allow themselves to be subjugated that way are the ones who need to wake the $#%^ up and check out of the walled garden.

There's an infinite number, seemingly, of .mp3 players on the market - from dirt cheap the really expensive. There's a wide variety of places you can go to buy and download .mp3s (like Walmart or Amazon) that have no DRM and will work on any device in the world. And if you already own an iPod, you can use .mp3s from any other source as you would like to use, and manage your device/music with non-iTunes software - like WinAmp, for example.

The reason Apple abuses it's consumers is because the consumers consent to it. Stop consenting...leave Apple, and they'll either have to change, or they'll go out of business. But if you insist on looking for someone to blame about how Apple abuses it's consumer base, all you have to do is look in the mirror.

RE: Not really...
By kingmotley on 3/23/11, Rating: -1
RE: Not really...
By aegisofrime on 3/23/2011 11:46:12 AM , Rating: 5
I humbly disagree.

I have an iPhone 3GS and I find iTunes the worst crap ever. Firstly, ditto the lack of drag and drop support. I cannot sync music from different PCs: Trying to sync with one requires me to clear my existing library on the iPhone. iTunes with rubbish at finding album art for music that you do not buy from iTunes, so I have to use MediaMonkey.

It's great if you use iTunes to get all your music, but the iTunes music store isn't even available in my country, and I buy my music from eMusic.

RE: Not really...
By Aikouka on 3/23/2011 12:14:16 PM , Rating: 2
The problem it seems that you bring up is the fact that while iTunes works out of the box for most users, for some... it can honestly be hard to find the option you need to suit your situation. The thing is, you can drag-and-drop music using iTunes. Using that functionality, you can get music from different computers onto the same device.

Try using the "Manually Manage My Music Library" (that might not be the exact option name) option.

RE: Not really...
By kmmatney on 3/23/2011 12:34:10 PM , Rating: 2
I don';t have any trouble doing what you describe. I can drag and drop, and I use 2 different computers with iTunes. There are plug-ins to make album art easier. I guess I'm the opposite - I tried using media monkey, and several other alternative, but finally just took the time to make iTunes work better and have been happy with it.

RE: Not really...
By Mitch101 on 3/23/2011 4:04:14 PM , Rating: 2
Thankyou sir may I have another!

RE: Not really...
By Azethoth on 3/24/2011 5:42:25 AM , Rating: 2
Meh. I use iTunes to manage play lists and playback on my computer. File storage is on a NAS (Netgear ReadyNAS). Playback in living room and bedroom sound systems are via 2 Squeezebox Touch units. CD ripping is via dbPoweramp. Control via the Touches or much more nicely via iPad + SqueezePad application.

The only sucky thing is getting good quality album art which needs to live in the album folder as Folder.jpg. dbPoweramp has a pretty good built in search for art, also Google images, or if I am lazy or all else fails I just drag a 600x600 out of iTunes. My goal is 1400x1400 so that it looks awesome one day when I am using my iPad4 with 2560x1600 resolution to control my music systems.

Your multi sync issue is difficult under iTunes. Easiest would be to have one PC or a server have your one true image of music. Then use things like SyncToy to update your other PC's. But then you still have issues with how to update each iTunes copy with new music.

Probably you would need something that can copy any new music to the "Automatically add to iTunes" folder on the other PCs. For ripping I go to that folder so I don't have to manually drag stuff around.

I believe that the "Home Sharing" feature in iTunes is the official way to share as you describe amongst multiple PC's although I have not done so.

RE: Not really...
By mcnabney on 3/24/2011 9:15:27 AM , Rating: 2
You really believe that the next iPad will have the same resolution IPS screen that Apple packs into their most expensive monitor?

Those Retina displays cost Apple about $100 each, which means a 9.7" version at a similar dpi would cost Apple at least a grand - assuming they can even get panels that big due to defect rates in construction.

RE: Not really...
By SkullOne on 3/23/2011 11:47:42 AM , Rating: 3
Funny how everything you mention can be done without needing anything Apple.

I routinely sync stuff to my Android phone. The best part though? I don't have to use crap software like iTunes and hope to god it doesn't crash while syncing.

It all just "works" except when "you're holding it wrong" right?

RE: Not really...
By snakeInTheGrass on 3/23/11, Rating: -1
RE: Not really...
By nafhan on 3/23/2011 12:43:33 PM , Rating: 3
when you have to go through some strange series of steps to enable an app provider
Since that doesn't really apply to the Android Market, I guess you're talking about enabling Amazon as an alternative app source? Complicated? Slightly. It's also, ironically, something Apple doesn't even let you do.

RE: Not really...
By SkullOne on 3/23/2011 1:31:13 PM , Rating: 3
Funny the Android Market doesn't require you to jump through any hoops to get it working.

Amazon isn't even that hard to get working. Plus since Amazon is actually allowed to have its own app store that's a HUGE plus. Competition is a GOOD thing.

Not sure what your point about an update every 6 months is. A phone shouldn't need near monthly updates like Apple pushes. This isn't a computer running OS X, Windows, or some *ux that gets monthly or weekly updates. Not to mention for me I had a Droid before my Thunderbolt. Droid has received 5 updates since it's release in November 2009. So that's an average of one update a little more then every 3 months with two of those updates being fairly substantial upgrades (2.1 and 2.2).

Apple only keeps giving out updates because they hamstring users by NOT giving them basic functionality and because they have to roll out huge bug fix updates after every major iOS update. It took Apple TWO DAMN YEARS to bring MMS and Copy/Paste to iOS. That's just sad. iOS still doesn't have true multi-tasking. Their implementation isn't "done right" like Lord and master Jobs claims. iOS multi-tasking is incredibly half-assed.

To top it off they force obsolescence on users by not enabling new functionality on older devices when they can do it. For example MMS on the original iPhone and no multi-tasking on iPhone 3G (which I had before my much better Droid). Apple cited "hardware limitations" as reasons for the lack of feature support. Yet, if you jailbroke the phones multi-tasking and MMS "magically" worked.

RE: Not really...
By Azethoth on 3/24/2011 5:51:38 AM , Rating: 2
"Yet, if you jailbroke the phones multi-tasking and MMS "magically" worked."
Yeah but the battery life goes to hell. A trade off is just that and they prefer not to have irate customers whining about 3 hour battery life instead of the 8-10 they are used to.

As for obsolescence, uhm I replace my iPhone every 2 years when the contract is up. I really do not care about my original iPhone anymore. Just my current 3GS and my magical 5 I will get this summer.

My Android using buddies have the same attitude.

RE: Not really...
By mcnabney on 3/24/2011 9:20:30 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, that is the reason for it. And they lied to your face about that reason and you have no problem with it.

I guess some sheep deserve to get sheared...

RE: Not really...
By B3an on 3/23/2011 11:52:26 AM , Rating: 5
I like hardware and software that just "work".

You mean like there latest Macbooks freezing? or when there iPods were exploding? Or when iLife kept crashing for everyone? Lets not forget the many many problems iTunes caused for people over the years.

But it all "just works", so it's perfectly fine to pay more and to be locked into there system right.

Can someone PLEASE invent a device already that makes stupidity painful.

RE: Not really...
By Smartless on 3/23/2011 2:41:49 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah but don't Apple customers enjoy taking it up the...

In any case, if we can get back from the Apple hating, does a lawsuit like really have any substance? I mean what are they hoping to accomplish? Money? The changes were made in the past. Wouldn't that mean Apple fixed it? Besides that's no different then the business scheme they've always had which is use our stuff to work with our stuff.

RE: Not really...
By amanojaku on 3/23/2011 9:15:24 PM , Rating: 2
Can someone PLEASE invent a device already that makes stupidity painful.
Isn't that Facebook? Michael Phelps, philanderers, and job searchers would agree.

RE: Not really...
By AstroGuardian on 3/24/2011 4:45:53 AM , Rating: 2
Hahahah! +1

RE: Not really...
By Aibo on 3/23/2011 11:58:55 AM , Rating: 2
While agree with what you said, I never own an iPod or bought anything from Apple Store. I also don't like iTune. That is my choice, don't like how Apple's restriction in their product, don't buy or use Apple product. As simple as that. Having said that I grew up using exclusive Apple II and Mac until I got very tired of how Apple always restricts what I want to do.

It always surprises me that for those who knew how Apple does things, they still buy Apple product and then complain about Apple's restriction. Is it because they can't resist the "coolness of owning Apple products". Like some users need to be able to show off the latest iPod, iPhone or iPad?

RE: Not really...
By snakeInTheGrass on 3/23/11, Rating: -1
RE: Not really...
By someguy123 on 3/23/2011 2:08:42 PM , Rating: 2
Indeed, it just works!....When it wants to.

When it doesn't:

disable apple mobile device
disable ipod service
wait a few seconds
enable apple mobile device
enable ipod service
open itunes
wait a few seconds praying to the apple god that my ipod loads
get 0x error
disable services again
try different usb port
magically works after attempt #47

I guess apple wasn't kidding when they say their products are magical.

RE: Not really...
By Targon on 3/23/2011 5:05:58 PM , Rating: 3
You miss the whole point of this lawsuit, and the other suits that involve the way Apple has been doing business in this space.

Problem 1: Apple makes sure that iTunes will not work with other devices. We are not talking about what the devices CAN do, but about Apple intentionally changing iTunes just to stop it working with other devices.

Problem 2: Music that has been encoded to work with iTunes(RealNetworks) was intentionally made to not work, even though there is no technical reason for the change. It isn't a function of normal improvements causing a problem, this is a deliberate effort to break the ability of other companies to interoperate with iTunes and iPod/iPhone/iPads.

If all you care about is using iTunes with an iDevice, you wouldn't care about these issues, but with the iTunes store having a virtual stranglehold on the industry, preventing other companies from making legitimate products that work with iDevices that would compete with the iTunes store.

RE: Not really...
By mcnabney on 3/24/2011 9:23:36 AM , Rating: 3
I don't know why that was rated down. It is spot on accurate. If Microsoft released an update for Windows that broke Chrome and Firefox you better believe there would be an antitrust action.

RE: Not really...
By JoJoman88 on 3/23/2011 5:31:45 PM , Rating: 1
That's just it,"it just works" is always been the hook that Apple uses for people who want something that just works for them without having to tweak hardware or software. When they do this, you are locked into the Apple system without much choice. Apple maybe the choice of the masses who do not what problems with hardware/software. For me, I never have nor will I never buy Apple products because of this.

RE: Not really...
By omnicronx on 3/23/2011 12:00:50 PM , Rating: 2
Rewind to 2004, and most of your statements don't hold true.

Apple used iTunes to leverage the iPod and vice versa. Whether or not they were doing anything illegal is a different question entirely, but I think it would be pretty hard to argue the above statement.

We might have had other sources of Music (albeit not that many, and the few that existed were not very good), but iTunes was by far the biggest and fastest expanding.

Once they gained control of a market, these lock in tactics were no longer truly needed. The damage had already been done and iTunes had become the de facto standard for music distribution. So its not really about what happened today, but what happened 7-8 years ago.(though once again, its going to be quite hard to prove Apple's guilt here considering at the time its sales were a fraction of real media sales)

RE: Not really...
By snakeInTheGrass on 3/23/11, Rating: 0
I realize he's the Chief Executive Officer...
By quiksilvr on 3/23/2011 11:08:39 AM , Rating: 2
But shouldn't they also question the iTunes software developers and who ordered them to do this? For all we know, it might have been someone else within the company that did this and just let Jobs know about it.

Note: I am not saying they shouldn't question Jobs. I am just saying they should do further investigations to see who else was involved in this, who ordered it and who allowed it.

By TheRequiem on 3/23/2011 11:15:40 AM , Rating: 2
It's all corporate policy nonsense, Jobs is the symbol of the company's direction, thus, the final decision maker in the policy making process, so they will naturally question him. Just like they question Obama when governemnt fails.

RE: I realize he's the Chief Executive Officer...
By omnicronx on 3/23/2011 11:53:56 AM , Rating: 2
What world do you live in? I don't care if its the CEO of Apple or the manager of your local MacDonald's, if you are the boss you are responsible for those under you.

If you don't know about high level decisions like this going on under you, then you are not doing your job.(and for high level execs, we should all know by now that an 'I did not know' defence does not fly *points to Enron*)

That is the nature of the beast, with power comes responsibility and accountability.

By zxern on 3/23/2011 1:22:11 PM , Rating: 2
Isn't that the justification they use for getting paid the big bucks?

RE: I realize he's the Chief Executive Officer...
By zxern on 3/23/2011 1:24:42 PM , Rating: 3
But seriously, Enron was an exception, just look at how well bank executives have made out.

By cjohnson2136 on 3/23/2011 3:45:23 PM , Rating: 2
But because of Enron, i forget the name of rules that were established, the gov't is holding CEO's and other high executives for all the actions of the company. It is these people that have the final say and they need to make sure that the stuff being produced or happening within their company is within the constraints of the law.

easy solution
By swampthing1117 on 3/23/2011 11:42:38 AM , Rating: 5
Solution is simple. Do what i do. Don't buy apple, EVER, for any reason. Problem solved. I don't think i'd take one of their garbage items if you gave it to me. It's all proprietary crap.

RE: easy solution
By vision33r on 3/23/2011 12:29:23 PM , Rating: 2
Yea, don't buy apple stuff if you don't like their way with things. There are plenty of choices so this BS about not having a choice is total crock.

You can buy the Zune HD music player or any other Android based one.

RE: easy solution
By kleinma on 3/23/2011 12:59:05 PM , Rating: 2
well MS killed the Zune actually, but I agree with you otherwise ;)

I own a zune and a droid and can play music and video on either (in various different formats). No need for iAnything. I don't even want iTunes on my computer because of all the crap it needs to install and services that need to be running, but my girl has an ipod so I am stuck with it until that thing dies at least.

RE: easy solution
By cjohnson2136 on 3/23/2011 2:53:44 PM , Rating: 2
but my girl has an ipod so I am stuck with it until that thing dies at least.

just make it "magically" go away ;)

RE: easy solution
By kmmatney on 3/23/11, Rating: 0
RE: easy solution
By Veerappan on 3/23/11, Rating: -1
RE: easy solution
By Johnmcl7 on 3/23/2011 3:27:07 PM , Rating: 2
It would be a significant downgrade from my current Vaio Z5 (3Ghz C2D, 1600x900 screen, dual 128GB SSDs in Raid 0, blu-ray burner, integrated and discrete graphics),same goes for pretty much any Apple hardware and there's never any piece of Apple equipment I've used I'd rather have over my own. Quite the opposite in fact.


consumer failure
By Shadowmaster625 on 3/23/2011 2:23:49 PM , Rating: 2
Sure Apple was wrong in trying to block non-itunes music from playing on their crappy devices. But there is nothing the courts can or should do about it. The solution is that people shouldnt buy CRAP that is so locked down. I hate ipods. It is so far beyonfd utterly retarded that they are so difficult to put music onto, or take music off of. Hello? WTF is so wrong with simply plugging the freaking device into a usb port and copying a folder onto it? ANY pc. No garbage software required. Yeah... just try that with some stupid icrap. Why anyone would waste their money on such garbage is beyond me. But they do it. They love it. They cant get enough of it. I deal with mp3s. I dont have to convert my **** to some **** format that only braindead retards would ever use.

RE: consumer failure
By Azethoth on 3/24/2011 6:11:23 AM , Rating: 2
Sounds like you have no idea how easy music syncing is on an iPod, iPhone, iPad. Lemme spell it out:

I plug one of them into a USB port and it syncs my music. After a while I unplug it and I am done.

Wow. Yeah manually dragging stuff over would totally be better. Not!

By the way, this works with MP3 files. Yes, thats right, you can use MP3 files on iDevices. Of course, I prefer lossless rips from a CD so that music is playable on my home sound system as well so I do not use icky MP3 files.

As for converting formats there is zero issues with that, unless you want to use Windows Media Player 12 because it is tarded and does not understand m4a files with ALAC inside. But that is Microsoft being soft in the head, not Apple.

I deal with Apple m4a ALAC (lossless) and open source FLAC (lossless) for the 24/96 and better files I get from and I don't have to convert anything to anything except when syncing to an iDevice because I need to compress my files to fit on them and you cannot tell the difference while listening with ear buds.

One day soon, I will be able to get high rez music from iTunes and my last remaining issue with the ecosystem will be solved. OMG I cannot wait. I love you Steve Jobs!

RE: consumer failure
By messele on 3/24/2011 6:04:48 PM , Rating: 1
What is it with everybody that doesn't get why working with a library through iTunes is infinitely simpler while giving you more control than the archaic, backward and unintuitive method of drag and drop that is not even relevant to storing media.

Drag and drop may work for albums that you have painstakingly taken months to catalogue and rename, but what happens when you don't want a whole album? What happens when you want a playlist of the 100 of your most listened to rock songs of the 90's that you have rated 3 stars or above?

Just an example but how would you do that with drag and drop exactly? Not only getting that onto the player in the first place but actually ensuring that it plays correctly when it's on there?

I accept that the Windows version of iTunes is not great. It does have a few weird caveats that make more sense in Mac OS X and the performance sucks but to build a library in in the OS X version with almost no restrictions as to what you can do with that library (assuming you imported it all yourself, I don't buy media via iTunes) then I think it's way better than anything else I have tried, if you take a moment to think about what you want from it before you build your library.

RE: consumer failure
By captainBOB on 3/25/2011 1:44:48 AM , Rating: 2
The only thing more annoying than an irrational love of Apple products is an irrational hate of Apple products.

iTunes organizes your (massive) library of songs, by artist, in neat little folders on its own, where you ask?
C:/Users/username/Music/iTunes Media/Music

Hell, if you songs are all over the place you can even tell iTunes to consolidate it into the iTunes Media folder for you

Want to sync your iDevice, plug it in, wait until it finishes syncing, unplug, wow that was easy.

Now then to the negative part

iTunes is a bloated monster, even Mac users agree, especially the Windows version, it wouldn't surprise me if it was done on purpose, considering the amazing work Microsoft put into Office:Mac and yet it can have compatibility issues with its Windows counterpart. Don't even get me started on the Safari + Bonjour tagalong.

iTunes is made to be easy to use....with iDevices (who would've thunk it...) want to sync with that creative mp3 you got at walmart? nope

Want to use those songs you purchased from the iTunes store on your creative mp3?
go ahead, you'll have to it the old-fashioned way and drag and drop those albums (thank goodness iTunes can sort them for you)

in the courtroom...
By sprockkets on 3/23/2011 1:03:00 PM , Rating: 3
Judge: Mr. Sprockkets you may proceed with your questioning.

Sprockkets: Thank you your honor. My first question to you, Mr. Steven P Jobs is, why are you such a douche bag?

RE: in the courtroom...
By smackababy on 3/23/2011 4:20:05 PM , Rating: 2
-Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney

Some random thoughts
By akugami on 3/23/11, Rating: 0
RE: Some random thoughts
By jecs on 3/24/2011 1:34:04 AM , Rating: 2
All this discussion makes me go back one or two years ago on information not accurate about DRM and iTunes and I don't know how well informed are "we" all on this subject. And on my side, because I stooped worrying about it a while ago I forgot manny things and I cannot confirm or deny anything at a 100%.

On the claim that you are restricted to using the music on Apple/iTunes closed system at least I can say there are legal software to remove the DRM rights and play your legal purchased tunes where you decide. What I can't confirm is if it is legal in the US, but I am "almost" sure.

But also, I remember the upgrade to this legal status on iTunes more than a year ago when I personally upgraded and payed more for my purchased music to enable the 256 bit DRM format from 128 bits, and the new legal status with the new bitrate allowed me to own the music and not just license it. So the music is mine to play it where I want it.

On the discussion about the closed Apple system, this is their legal decision to implement it and yours to get into. But, to my not legal expertise this is all the same as the Xbox or Nintendo or Playstation. If you buy a game for a console system you have a closed system with a disc or software that only works on that specific ecosystem and manny times you cant get a specific title. It has its advantages and its disadvantages but, I don't think SONY or MS or Nintendo are money traps or wrong business models. I am speculating here as I prefer to play occasionally a few games on my PC and sometimes on my Mac. But for many people the Apple system works great and is not a trap more than any other commercial system. Start investing a lot of money and you are on your own, but don't blame big business models more than our all global society and yourself for not knowing what you are doing.

In my experience I have a small investment on iTunes and a way bigger collection from my CDs. It has being great because iTunes and Amazon allowed me to buy good quality music right at my desktop and because most of the tracks I purchased I would had a difficult time buying the whole CD. So I picked specific songs I always wanted. Also, I did the same on Amazon, and with property I can say that sometimes you could find the same song with different availability on both systems. I was able to buy some songs on Amazon that couldn't be purchased as separated on iTunes (only the album option was available). So Amazon is actually a great alternative.

In the end I can say there is nothing more frustrating than hating something and losing the opportunity to enjoy its advantages. I have both a Mac Pro and a very recent 2600K/ASUS/DELL Windows machine. And I don't know witch one I love more. But the same to my other brand devices. I research a lot and finally I invest on technology without concerns on "evil" practices anywhere by principle. As long as it delivers a service, I know what I am buying and it is good or best quality it becomes part of my repertoire if I can afford it.

By macthemechanic on 3/26/2011 11:17:22 AM , Rating: 2
RealNetworks, let then pass away. This is simply there last gasp in this world. I've downloaded and used Amazon files and Audible audio books for years on my iPods. Including the dates mentioned in the lawsuit. Just because RealNetworks couldn't manage it, doesn't make it illegal. Apple had commitments to the recording industry, if you bother to research this, that has forced their hand many times. If you want to find out really who controls these things, look to them, not Apple.

"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher

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