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Friday, 14 August 2009 13:19

Judge says no to iTunes class action

A US judge has rejected an application for a class action alleging Apple illegally tied the iPod and iTunes Store.

One Stacie Somers filed what was intended to be a class action claiming Apple was in breach of various Federal and state laws by making the iPod play only music files from the iTunes Store, and selling music files through the iTunes Store that only play on iPods.

The action dates back to November 2005. At that time, iTunes Store tracks were protected with Apple's Fairplay DRM which prevented them working on other portable music players, or on PCs running software other than Apple's iTunes.

Similarly, other online music stores only offered tracks protected with Microsoft's Windows Media DRM, which do not work on the iPod.

This overlooks the possibility of using the iPod with music ripped from CDs, or using iTunes to burn Fairplay-protected tracks to a CD which could then be ripped and used with another type of portable music player.

Part of Somers' case was that the hardware inside the iPod was capable of playing WMA files, but that Apple had deliberately written the software so such files would not be playable.

According to Rae Theodore, writing in FindLaw, Judge James Ware found Apple's expert witness to be more credible than Somers', and said that Somers had "failed to provide a reliable method to show common damages across the class."

That's not the end of the story, as the judge has yet to rule on the certification of an injunctive relief class.

Even if Somers' move for a class action fails completely, the case could still continue on an individual basis, which would mean the judge would have to decide on the complaint itself.

But without the potential payday that comes with a class action victory, will Somers' lawyers be prepared to continue with the case unless she agrees to foot the bill?

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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