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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RE: Not really...
By kingmotley on 3/23/2011 11:36:38 AM , Rating: -1
Some people actually like (for the most part) of how Apple does things. I like hardware and software that just "work". I have no issues buying mp3 files and putting them in iTunes and syncing to my iPhone. Although I would like to have better software to sync with my phone, I accept the limitation because everything else works so well.

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.

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs

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