Apple has prevailed in an almost decade-long antitrust legal battle over the way its iPod gadgets handled music not obtained through iTunes.
A federal jury in Oakland, California, took just four hours to clear the iThings maker of wrongdoing – and tossed out calls for a $351m compensation package for eight million owners of late-2000s iPods. That figure could have been tripled if the iPhone giant had lost its fight.
Apple was accused in a class-action lawsuit of designing its software to remove music and other files from iPods that weren't purchased or ripped via iTunes – but the eight-person jury decided that mechanism was a legit feature.
"We thank the jury for their service and we applaud their verdict," Apple told The Register in a statement following the verdict today.
"We created iPod and iTunes to give our customers the world’s best way to listen to music. Every time we've updated those products — and every Apple product over the years — we’ve done it to make the user experience even better.”
The plaintiffs in the case alleged Apple broke antitrust laws and harmed consumers by limiting their ability to choose between different online music stores.
It was argued that Apple had deliberately set up iTunes to report iPods as damaged if they stored music that, essentially, wasn't sanctioned by Apple: if alien files were found by the software, users were told to restore their devices to factory settings, effectively wiping songs not purchased from or ripped from CD by iTunes.
Apple countered that it was only preventing iPods from being hacked or damaged by third-party data. The company said the protections were implemented to prevent people from listening to pirated music – a claim the jury upheld.
Further, it was claimed the class-action lawsuit lacked any legal standing as it turned out the plaintiffs didn't actually own an iPod during the years Apple is accused of breaking the law – 2006 to 2009.
The iTunes antitrust battle had been going on in various forms since 2005 until morphing into the lawsuit defeated today. The case made headlines again this month when lawyers presented key evidence in the form of an extended deposition from Apple CEO and cofounder Steve Jobs, recorded just months before his death in 2011.
Reporters fought to have that tape released to the public in full in the closing days of arguments, a motion Apple is fighting to deny. ®