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 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.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

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