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Antitrust Suit Filed To Halt Apple 'Music Monopoly' 510

Posted by Zonk
from the a-bit-too-popular dept.
Dotnaught writes with word of an anti-trust lawsuit filed against Apple late last month. Information Week has the story, a suit charging the company with maintaining an illegal monopoly on the digital music market. "The complaint goes beyond software licensing politics and charges Apple with deliberately designing its iPod hardware to be incompatible with WMA. One of the third-party components in iPods, the Portal Player System-On-A-Chip, supports WMA, according to the complaint. 'Apple, however, deliberately designed the iPod's software so that it would only play a single protected digital format, Apple's FairPlay-modified AAC format,' the complaint states. 'Deliberately disabling a desirable feature of a computer product is known as crippling a product, and software that does this is known as crippleware.'"
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Antitrust Suit Filed To Halt Apple 'Music Monopoly'

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  • Another lame lawsuit. :/

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I'll say it's lame.

      I hate propriety formats and limitations but now they want to FORCE companies to build in features or supporting a format - get bent.
    • Re:Spluh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Romancer (19668) <romancer&deathsdoor,com> on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:20PM (#21901754) Journal
      And kinda funny since the Zune shipped without support for Microsofts own "Play for Sure" music.

      Where do these people get this stuff?

      Shipping a product without support for a desirable format? WTF? This is the whole reason we have the choice to buy hundreds of other brands of mp3 players that support both wma and ogg and mp3 as well as iTunes. I see no monopoly here.
  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cbrocious (764766) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:06PM (#21901514) Homepage
    These people need to learn the difference between codecs and DRM schemes. WMA support means the hardware can decode it, not decrypt the data. You're going to force Apple to license Microsoft's DRM? That's retarded.
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by Rosyna (80334) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:11PM (#21901608) Homepage

      You're going to force Apple to license Microsoft's DRM? That's retarded.


      Yup. The solution to Apple being accused of being a monopolist is to have them license DRM from a convicted monopolist. Seems simple enough.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Yup. The solution to Apple being accused of being a monopolist is to have them license DRM from a convicted monopolist. Seems simple enough.

        Not only that but even Microsoft doesn't support its original DRM with the Zune. WMA is 100% closed spec, while AAC+DRM is only closed spec for the DRMed portion, since AAC is an open spec (note open doesn't necessarily mean license free) owned by Dolby and it part of the MPEG4 specification.

        This suit sounds like another money grab. The only winners are the lawyers.
        • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

          by vought (160908) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:35PM (#21902020)
          The PP5002c used in the first three generations of iPod (and the PP5003 used in the fourth) does indeed decode WMA.

          It also has a USB interface. But the first two generations of iPod don't.

          The PP5002c can decode video. But no iPods until the fifth generation did so.

          The PP5002c also had lots of other logic in it that wasn't used by Apple. I can't possibly see how this is supposed to be an argument that Apple was supposed to support WMA.

          Another harassment suit. I hope it gets kicked out of court quickly.
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

        by SharpFang (651121) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:52PM (#21902244) Homepage Journal
        The nice, simple and cool alternative is if iPods were mp3-enabled. No DRM. Songs from any source can be used, except of few chosen ones that use DRM ;)
        • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Em Adespoton (792954) <slashdotonly.1.adespoton@spamgourmet.com> on Thursday January 03, 2008 @07:16PM (#21902540) Homepage Journal

          The nice, simple and cool alternative is if iPods were mp3-enabled. No DRM. Songs from any source can be used, except of few chosen ones that use DRM ;)
          I agree! We need a portable digital audio player that can do this! Like, say, EVERY SINGLE iPOD EVER MADE. The DRM is in the iTunes store, not the iPod. iPods can play MP3 just fine, as well as DRM-free AAC, Apple Lossless, and a number of other audio formats. The lawsuit is arguing that Apple DRM is the only DRM the iPods will decode; they won't decode Corporation X's scheme.

          In order for this to be an issue at all, there needs to be a DRM scheme that is an open standard. Currently there isn't, so the lawsuit has exactly 0 legs to stand on. Apple decided to create their own DRM instead of licensing and implementing the DRM of a convicted monopolist who tends to randomly deprecate their old DRM products. The only thing Apple has a monopoly on is DRMed tracks on their music system. Apple sells DRM-free music, and DRM-free music from anywhere else can also be loaded on an iPod in a number of industry standard formats.

          That said, I don't own an iPod as it doesn't have the feature set I want. I have no problems with Apple's iPod/iTS product offering though. It might be anticompetitive, but it isn't illegal and it definitely is not monopolistic. That'd be like saying Apple iMacs are monopolistic because they won't play DRM'd WMV files.

    • by eclectic4 (665330)
      Dumbest, article, ever.

      If /. became the place where all frivolous lawsuits are posted as articles, even just the ones against Apple, it wouldn't have time to do anything else.
    • by sumdumass (711423)
      Even if it wasn't just MS DRM it is just lame anyways. Apple never represented the Ipod as having the capabilities of anything other then what it does. Crippling a chip to include it in a product for a specific purpose isn't crime is it? I mean is all those computers capable of running linux but cannot because they are sold as appliances or devices like the Tivo or a router breaking some law? I didn't think so either.

      I mean it would be different if they made a claim of ti being able to do something then loc
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:23PM (#21901810) Journal

      Worse than that, "support" for WMA in a portable player chipset doesn't generally mean the hardware can decode it by itself. It means that the hardware has enough memory and enough DSP horsepower to decode it when combined with an appropriate software codec. This is a case of licensing or not licensing the WMA codec, not just the crypto. It would almost certainly have cost Apple money on every iPod to support even the unencrypted WMA. This isn't something you get for free just by using a particular piece of hardware....

      I would also hardly call WMA support "highly desirable". Among Microsoft employees who have portable music players, the iPod market share is reportedly 80%. If it were so desirable, don't you think at least Microsoft employees would favor Zunes because they support WMA? I think we can safely establish that at least as far as consumers are concerned, WMA support is not desirable. As far as consumers are concerned, a WMA file, an MP3 file, and an AAC file are all the same thing as an AIFF file. Most consumers just don't care. Expecting a hardware vendor to pay extra money on every unit for a feature that few users care about is silly, and I can't imagine how much crack their lawyers must have been smoking when they took on such a frivolous case.

      If they were doing something useful like suing for the right to sell FairPlay songs, that would at least make sense, but suing because Apple didn't pay to license the WMA codec is about the most asinine lawsuit I've ever heard of. This makes the SCO lawsuits seem positively sensible by comparison....

      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

        by vought (160908) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:39PM (#21902078)

        It means that the hardware has enough memory and enough DSP horsepower to decode it when combined with an appropriate software codec. This is a case of licensing or not licensing the WMA codec, not just the crypto.
        IIRC, the PP5002c was sold as a standalone chip to Apple, but Portal Player was trying to sell an entire OS/Chip solution. Apple sourced the iPod's first OS from Pixo, so there was no WMA built into it - and it's also why Portal never wanted to acknowledge Apple being a customer (when I contracted for them, we were not allowed to mention Apple, only the customer named "Baseband"). Because Apple didn't use Portal's entire solution, they were not someone portal wanted to talk about.

        Also, if I recall correctly, the PP5002c and PP5003 were simply dual ARM7 TDMIO chips with some glue and interface logic. There's nothing there that would play WMA.

        This case is baseless, groundless, and sure to get paid to go away.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by samkass (174571) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @07:48PM (#21902894) Homepage Journal
      From Apple's page:

      Audio formats supported: AAC (16 to 320 Kbps), Protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, and 4), Apple Lossless, WAV, and AIFF

      Only one of the 7 formats is DRM'ed (ie. "locked"), and only 2 have any sort of Apple proprietary nature to them (Apple Lossless and the FairPlay DRM'ed AAC). They shouldn't be forced to adopt a competitor's DRM. And Amazon proved you can create an online service compatible with the iPod.

      In short, they'll get thrown out of court.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by someone300 (891284)
      Indeed. This lawsuit is nonsensical. In addition to your above complaint, they claim that the iPod software is "crippleware" since it lacks the ability to play WMA files. This doesn't make sense. Even if one chip on the iPod supports WMA, it doesn't mean they could magically make the iPod work perfectly with WMA just by "uncrippling" it. They'd have to write the iTunes code to handle WMAs, they'd need to make sure iTunes on OS X and Windows supports WMA, they'd need to do quality assurance on it, in additio
  • If apple had enabled that feature, they would have had to pay licence fees to microsoft. the iPod is expensive enough as it is, why would i want to pay even more for a feature i'm not interested in, and have no intention of ever using?

    If i wanted Microsofts DRM, i'd get a zune - and then download all the universal music i can find for free (i would have paid my piracy tax, i may as well receive my proper compensation)
    • by Keebler71 (520908)
      Who said anything about DRM? I have hundreds if not thousands of songs from my personal collection ripped to wma. I'd consider buying a iPod if it could play them. I have no desire to play DRMed music on any music device, let alone an iPod. I would however enjoy having more format compatibility in the digital music world.... or am I mistaken and we are only to advocate format compatibility when MS is the bad guy?
      • Re:licence fees (Score:4, Informative)

        by Romancer (19668) <romancer&deathsdoor,com> on Thursday January 03, 2008 @07:03PM (#21902384) Journal
        "Who said anything about DRM?"

        The article.

        That's uh, what it's about:
        "Apple, however, deliberately designed the iPod's software so that it would only play a single protected digital format, Apple's FairPlay-modified AAC format," the complaint states. "Deliberately disabling a desirable feature of a computer product is known as 'crippling' a product, and software that does this is known as 'crippleware.' "

        Some side notes:

        1. This was known: http://dotnet.org.za/matt/archive/2004/02/20/460.aspx [dotnet.org.za]
        2. The wma format itself is a non issue if you use the included iTunes software that ships with every ipod: http://www.apple.com/itunes/jukebox/importing.html [apple.com]
              Quote "iTunes also converts unprotected WMA files to AAC."
        3. If you have the rights to play it on your PC then you can convert wma files to your ipod without quality loss since it uses lossless conversion.
        4. Apple created and supports a free program specifically designed to allow you to convert from wma as well as asf, wmv, wav, and ogg for the ipod: http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/audio/easywma.html [apple.com]

        It looks to me like they just didn't want to pay to license a format that, by the complaints own addmission, isn't popular enough to hold on to 20% of the online music sales and is likely to be going down since the article even points out that DRM free Mp3 download services are gaining ground.

        The second part of the monopoly isue is going to take some proving since the apple ceo posted this on the apple website:
        Feb 6 2007
        "Today's most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats. It's hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future. And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music."

        Since the ipod is left with 97% open format playback it's just a matter of deduction to see that the other cheaper players do support these open formats and some include protected wma (Zune) and could be easily puchased instead to use protected wma files directly if the consumer wanted. Free market and all that. If the feature was so desired then the players that support it would have more that a piddling share of the sales of music players.
        Last note: Napster, Musicmatch, Walmart, Best Buy and Yahoo all adopted the protected WMA music format even though apple is supposed to have a monopoly on the online music industry, interesting. I would have thought that to sell more music they would have licensed formats that easily played back on the most popular music device, the ipod. You know, to make money.
  • This is /. (Score:2, Funny)

    by elrous0 (869638) *
    Microsoft bad
    Apple good
    Linux great
    Fire bad
  • if they form this rumored label with jay-z will they get sued by the beatles again? this is what i'm wondering.
  • by ashitaka (27544) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:07PM (#21901536) Homepage
    Sosumi
  • by ktappe (747125) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:09PM (#21901566)
    The suit might have merit if the iPod would not play MP3 files or some other standard format. WMA is not a standard--hell, the "W" stands for "Windows" for crying out loud. Can Microsoft be sued for not supporting "Apple File Protocol" or some other Apple-specific protocol?
    • by oahazmatt (868057)

      Can Microsoft be sued for not supporting "Apple File Protocol" or some other Apple-specific protocol?
      Well, if Apple is found guilty in this situation, and uses this very case for precedent, it is quite possible, yes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Can Microsoft be sued for not supporting "Apple File Protocol" or some other Apple-specific protocol?

      Sure, you can sue them for anything... it doesn't mean you'll win though. In that case there might be some real merit, since MS has been convicted of antitrust actions with regard to their media player and music format.

  • Does anyone know if Apple would have to take out a license to play WMA or DRM protected WMA files with the iPod?
    • by cbrocious (764766)
      Protected WMA, yes. They pay for the WMA licensing with portalplayer AFAIK.
    • Does anyone know if Apple would have to take out a license to play WMA or DRM protected WMA files with the iPod?

      Yes, it's in TFA. It claims the cost would probably be about $.03 per iPod.

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:09PM (#21901574)
    $SUCCESSFUL_COMPANY sued for $OVERHYPED_REASON by $MONEY_HUNGRY_LAWYERS for $SOME_SCHLUB_WHO_AGREED_TO_BE_LAWYER'S_MARK

    Lather, rinse and repeat.

  • by ADRA (37398)
    Lets start suing GFX companies, mainframe, and firewall makers who use software to restrict what features are exposed to the end product. This is nothing new to Apple. If Apple advertised support for protected WMA then someone may have a ledge to grab onto, but instead they use the ploy that if a device -can- support something then it must.

    I should sue Nintendo to force them to accept playing my home-brew games. They're illegally locking my right to run my own programmed games on their system even though th
    • I should sue Sony for not allowing me to play Xbox games on my Playstation2. I mean c'mon. The hardware supports it - the disks are the same size and all.
  • by assassinator42 (844848) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:10PM (#21901580)
    If not, then I don't believe the suit has any merit. Even if the cost is 'only' $800,000. I'm guessing Apple still must license WMA playback even if the iPod contains a chip which is capable.
    Where's the Ogg Vorbis support? I hear Microsoft specifies that player which can play protected WMA can not play Ogg Vorbis. Where's the lawsuit about that?
  • When the market is demanding, and receiving, DRM-free tunes at amazon, iTunes, and a number of smaller label-run sites (Deutsche Grammophon and Naxos, for example), the restrictiveness of one product to not play another's deprecated and irrelevant format is a rather trite thing. As far as I know, there's never been a precedent for "incompatibility" unless there's a contract violation clause to attach it to.

    If they really want to solve the incompatibility problem, they should go out and sue HD-DVD and Blu-Ray device makers for not making players that can read both formats. Or how about a video game maker that only makes his games on PS2 and not on XBox or WII? or the other end, how about suing Microsoft for not being able to play Sony PS2 games...
  • by glindsey (73730) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:11PM (#21901612)
    ...because that's the only way I can explain this mirror universe where DRM proponents are arguing that a product barring them from crippling your ability to do what you want with your music is itself "crippleware".

    Scotty, for the love of God, get me out of here.
  • by Foofoobar (318279) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:11PM (#21901616)
    My iPod plays MP3's just fine. That's the most widely supported format their is. Why do they have to support WMA as well when they already support the most ubiquitous formats like WAV and MP3??
  • I wonder if they've filed against Verizon for all the phone features they disable, like the ability to create your own ring tones?
  • I am a company.

    I design a product to my specs.

    QED

    Now seriously, why should I feel obligated to make my iPod, that I designed and developed, slice bread and change my car's oil? You don't like the features my product has, either choose another or make your own. Just because my product is popular does NOT mean I have to change it to cater to you.

    Regards,
  • by jcaldwel (935913)
    Windows Media is a proprietary Microsoft format! How can you sue someone for not implementing a competitor's file format?
    • by croddy (659025) *
      Well, the thrust of the suit is that they are building Ipods using a third-party decoder chip, which has WMA support already, and then they are actively disabling it. It's not a matter of failing to implement the competitor's file format; the argument is that they are buying off-the-shelf hardware and disabling formats they wish to kill.
  • Since when (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Altus (1034) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:17PM (#21901724) Homepage

    is playing WMA files considered a desirable feature in a portable music player?
  • There is one potentially beneficial aspect to this:

    As for the injury to consumers, the complaint says that Apple's pricing is "monopolistic, excessive, and arbitrary," citing how a wholesale $5.52 price difference between 1-Gbyte ($4.15) and 4-Gbyte ($9.67) NAND flash memory modules results in a $100 retail price difference between 1-Gbyte iPod Nano and a 4-Gbyte Nano.
    If they could be forced to lower their prices, it would be nice for all of us.
  • If crippleware is illegal there would be many lawsuits to do against all who produce DRMs (Macrovision included) and as well against those who enforced of the "no-skip" flag in DVD players.

    That would be very satisfying just to know.

    If it is not illegal we should make it illegal, it's a democracy after all!
  • I'm all for freedom to play what you want to play, but this lawsuit is the stupidest thing I've seen in a long time. Hello! Apple makes the iPod. If they want to tie it to AAC+, they can do that. But, hey, as long as we're talking lawsuits, then let's sue them because it doesn't support OGG, FLAC, ATRAC, FLV, WMV, and it doesn't have an 8-track player option, just for good measure. By this logic, every software or hardware product out there could be liable if they don't include every single media or fi
  • Yeah... but of course it bothers no one that DRMized WMA are incompatible with everything except M$ software and M$ operating system.

    At least Apple ported its DRM scheme to Windows. Such cannot be said about M$. Microsoft has a problem with monopoly only when they do not have them.

    Google:
    - you do not need IE to use the website
    - in fact it probably works better with FireFox
    - they do software. For linux and mac also!!!.
    - sometimes free software.
    - ... even for the phone to replace that crap of Winblows mobile!
  • This is a usual trolling by lawyers, what is illegal about Apple's monopoly on iPods and iTunes? I don't have an MP3 player at all, don't listen to music, but even I know that there are hundreds of MP3 players out there and that Apple's music file can be converted to an MP3.
  • That's not a bug, it's a feature!
  • OGG! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:22PM (#21901802) Journal
    If this is proven, then it should be possible to get OGG in here. In fact, it might actually be better for Apple to support OGG.
  • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:24PM (#21901836) Homepage

    'Deliberately disabling a desirable feature of a computer product is known as crippling a product, and software that does this is known as crippleware.'
    I see it there, and I see the wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] is equally overbroad. By that definition, any company that ships anything less than their "Ultimate extreme deluxe enterprise edition" is selling/distributing crippleware. Not everyone needs the full Photoshop CS3 with all the bells and whistles, though I'm sure it's nothing more than some compile settings. Crippleware should in my opinion be reserved for really annoying software that does nothing but nag about buying a different version, or shenanigans like DRM. Delivering several variations of an application to different markets at different prices, that each exist in their own right is not crippleware.
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:25PM (#21901856)
    I can't see how anyone could seriously think this suit could win.

    even though the ipod is a retarded crippled heap of junk and itunes DRM is evil, there's nothing forcing you to buy it, there's plenty of other choices out there.

    add to this the fact they are expecting apple to pay a license fee to put WMA on the ipod, and you get the picture of the suit bringers idiocy.

    I think this stems from one of these morons who files nucance suits thinking itunes is some kind of defato standard.

  • by jpellino (202698) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:34PM (#21902014)
    What is illegal is to use that monopoly position to unfairly exclude others from the marketplace.
    iPods have been unable to play WMA since when there was only one iPod. The condition precedes any monopoly.
    Microsoft is in fact in the marketplace and makes a very brown player that plays WMA just fine.
    Stacie is perfectly free to buy one of those.

    Next?

  • by ToasterTester (95180) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:39PM (#21902072)
    LMAO lawsuits like this are so stupid, its not like Apple is the only music player on the market buy one that does what you want.

    Maybe I should sue Ford because I can't get a General Motors engine in a Focus. Where is it written all products have to support every format? Doesn't Apple have the right sell what they want and don't forget by not supporting other formats Apple is taking the risk and losing some customers who want those other formats. GROW UP people vote with your dollars. If Apple was to start losing lots of sales because they only support their own format, they would flinch and open up.

    So sick and tired of people wasting court time on whiny things like this instead of voicing their opinion with their dollars. All lawsuit like this do is increase the prices of products to offset the cost of legal departments to fight these frivolous lawsuit.
  • by Internet Ronin (919897) <internet DOT ronin AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday January 03, 2008 @06:58PM (#21902330)
    Is it?

    Really?

    I think that's what losers call it. I don't know that I've ever heard anyone who has known anything about computers EVER call anything crippleware.

    Freaking morons. You hear about this stuff all the time, it's like the lawyers decide they can take whatever noun they want, add "-ware" to the end of it, and its some part of the technological subculture that they can use that other lawyers and judges won't have any clue that they just made it up. They'll just assume that it is part of the "technological subculture" that they don't know anything about, and, voila, we've got new terms.

    Crippleware. Jesus. I don't know anyone in the industry making up nonsense like this. Do y'all?
  • by Chas (5144) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @09:24PM (#21904052) Homepage Journal
    Seriously. Apple, for all it's dominance in online music, is still a niche market.

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