Did Apple stifle competition by deleting MP3s that iPod owners purchased legitimately from rivals to its iTunes Music Store? That’s what lawyers for a class-action antitrust suit that got underway yesterday are arguing.
According to court documents filed in September, between 2006 and 2009, Apple released updates to iTunes that would display error messages when synced with iPods containing files from competing digital retailers like Real Networks, instructing users to return their players to factory settings and deleting competitors’ files in the process. At the time, Real sold MP3s at a fraction of the price the iTunes Music Store charged.
Apple maintains that the measures were necessary to protect users from hackers who may have compromised the iTunes ecosystem, but lawyers representing consumers who bought iPods during that time argue that the tactic was meant to keep iPod owners from buying music from non-Apple retailers. They’re seeking $350 million in damages.