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Apple Accused of Stealthily Deleting Competitors’ Music Files From Users’ iPods

Apple Accused of Stealthily Deleting Competitors’ Music Files From Users’ iPods

As the Apple iTunes/iPod antitrust case continued in court on Wednesday, plaintiffs’ lawyers made the charge that Apple quietly deleted songs that were not purchased via the iTunes Music Store from users’ iPods.

iPod Classic


Attorney Patrick Coughlin, representing a class of individuals and businesses, said Apple intentionally wiped songs downloaded from competing services when users performed a sync with their iTunes library, reportsThe Wall Street Journal.

Coughlin says when users attempted to sync an iPod with an iTunes library containing music from a competing services, such as RealNetworks, users would receive an ambiguous error message telling them to perform a factory reset of their device. Following the reset, users would find that all non-iTunes music was gone from the device.

“You guys decided to give them the worst possible experience and blow up” the iTunes library, Coughlin said.

Apple says the system was part of a safety measure to protect Apple’s users. Apple security director Augustin Farrugia testified that additional details about the error were not necessary because, “We don’t need to give users too much information,” and “We don’t want to confuse users.” Farrugia also said that Apple was “very paranoid” in its protection of iTunes, a sentiment that was echoed in an email from late Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs in 2004.

Apple is accused of locking their users into a closed ecosystem by using FairPlay digital rights management (DRM), thereby creating a monopoly. The class-action suit includes everyone who bought an iPod classic, iPod shuffle, iPod touch or iPod nano between Sept. 12, 2006 and March 31, 2009. Damages being sought total $350 million, an amount that could be tripled under U.S. antitrust laws.

Earlier in the week, Jobs’ videotaped testimony painted Apple as a company held hostage by the record companies. The companies required digital rights management (DRM) on iTunes songs as part of their contract terms. Apple claims that its repeated updating of iTunes to patch holes in its DRM was at the behest of the record labels.

The class-action lawsuit began earlier this week in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California. Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller and SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue are also expected to testify.