Apple Secretly Deleted Music Files but Might Not Have a Valid Plaintiff

Apple

Apple secretly deleted music files purchased or downloaded from other sources, but they might not have a valid plaintiff. According to the pending lawsuit, the giant corporation is accused of using its status to dominate the market for digital music between 2006 and 2009. It did so by using software called FairPlay and subsequently not playing or deleting files from RealNetworks or other non-Apple companies.

iPods purchased between September 2006 and March 2009 would stop working if there were files from RealNetworks or others. The malfunction would cause the user to reset and restore the setting, deleting files that were not played with the company’s proprietary software.

The directive was to not inform users of the issue other than to say there was an error and the device needed to be restored. Executives from Apple maintain that the directive was put in place to not confuse users by complicating a simple error.

These were legitimate security measures, executives commented, and perfectly acceptable because they feared hackers accessing iTunes. By deleting files that were not purchased or downloaded using iTunes, they were preventing a virus from getting in undetected.

The late Steve Jobs, who provided various emails within the company as part of his testimony, had stated that he felt they were under attack. Jobs said the music pirates were “breaking into our house.”

The current plaintiffs, Melanie Tucker and Marianna Rosen,contest that Apple was underhanded with its Digital Rights Management (DRM) and used it to edge out rival companies who sought to provide a similar service for purchasing and playing digital music files. This is made complicated because of the secret directive that forced iPod users to reset their devices which would restore the factory settings and subsequently delete any files that were not purchased or downloaded direct from iTunes.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking $350 million in damages. That amount could increase to over $1 billion if Apple, Inc. loses the lawsuit. There is new evidence, however, that might take current plaintiffs Tucker and Rosen out of the equation, leaving the lawsuit without a plaintiff.  The alleged evidence shows that the serial numbers of the iPods owned by both plaintiffs were purchased outside the timeframe listed in the lawsuit. What this equates to is that Apple secretly deleted music files and might not have a plaintiff.

Not having a valid plaintiff may greatly affect the lawsuit. The trial could be indefinitely stalled or completely stopped. However, there are an estimated eight million consumers who purchased iPods that would have been in the timeframe in question.

The executives still maintain that they were following the trend of copyrighting digitized music. The Zune, Microsoft’s answer to the iPod, was the example given. Microsoft released the Zune in 2006 and it only played music downloaded from a specific source. This example was used to point out that Apple was not the only company engaged in this practice.

One year after the launch of iTunes in 2004, it maintained over 70 percent of the digital music purchases. In 2007, Amazon started offering digital music downloads on an open platform, which prompted Apple to change their strategy. It was not until 2009 that Apple offered music downloads that were free of DRM and could be played on any device and platform, which was the standard for all digital music files offered from other companies as well.

The lawsuit against the company is still pending and the next few days will determine the result. Apple admitting to deleting music files does not help, but not having a valid plaintiff may have the lawsuit work in Apple’s favor.

By Kerri Cushna

Sources:
CNET
BBC News
Wall Street Journal

Photo by Prime Number – Flickr License

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