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Jury finds Apple not liable of harming consumers in iTunes DRM case

Jury finds Apple not liable of harming consumers in iTunes DRM case


Apple cleared in potential $1 billion court case

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An eight-person jury has decided that Apple is not on the hook for what could have been more than $1 billion in a trial centering on extra security measures the company added to iTunes and iPods starting in 2006.

Delivering a unanimous verdict today, the group said Apple's iTunes 7.0, released in the fall of 2006, was a "genuine product improvement," meaning that new features (though importantly increased security) were good for consumers. Plaintiffs in the case unsuccessfully argued that those features not only thwarted competition, but also made Apple's products less useful since customers could not as easily use purchased music or jukebox software from other companies with the iPod.

The decision means Apple did not violate antitrust laws, something that would have potentially led to damages of more than $1 billion. The complaint originally asked for damages of more than $350 million to pay a class of 8 million people who bought certain iPod models between September 2006 and the end of March in 2009.

"We thank the jury for their service and we applaud their verdict," Apple said in a statement. "We created iPod and iTunes to give our customers the world’s best way to listen to music. Every time we've updated those products — and every Apple product over the years — we’ve done it to make the user experience even better."

"At least we got a chance to get it in front of the jury."

Following the verdict, the plaintiff's head attorney Patrick Coughlin said an appeal is already planned. He also expressed frustrations over getting two of the security features — one that checks the iTunes database, and another that checks each song on the iPod itself — lumped together with the other user-facing features in the iTunes 7.0 update, like support for movies and games. "At least we got a chance to get it in front of the jury," he told reporters.

Apple's lawyers declined to comment, as did the jurors.

All along, Apple's made the case that its music store, jukebox software, and hardware was simply an integrated system similar to video game consoles from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. It built all those pieces to work together, and thus it would be unusual to expect any one piece from another company to work without issues, Apple's attorneys said. But more importantly, Apple offered, any the evolution of its DRM that ended up locking out competitors was absolutely necessary given deals it had with the major record companies to patch security holes.

The nearly two-week-long trial over the complaint, which was originally filed in 2005, wrapped up yesterday after both sides had a chance to make closing arguments. It originally stemmed from issues two customers said they had taking their paid music library to devices made by other companies, as well as not being able to use songs they paid for in other stores on their iPods.

Update December 16th, 1:21PM: with comment from Apple and the plaintiffs, as well as additional background about the case.

Update December 16th, 5:28PM: to change headline from "guilty" to "liable" since it's a civil lawsuit.