by Bill Snyder

iPod Owners: Did You Know You’re Suing Apple?

May 15, 20123 mins
Computers and PeripheralsConsumer ElectronicsMobile

Apple has been hit with a class action suit by iPod owners saying that the company has made it unfairly difficult to play songs if they haven't been purchased on iTunes. Unless you opt out, you're part of the suit.

I love iTunes (the service, not the klutzy software), and I admire the geniuses at Apple for creating the iPod, which millions of us use to listen to our music anywhere and anytime we feel like it.

I don’t, however, like Apple’s heavy-handed approach to DRM (digital rights management), which makes me feel like a criminal for trying to move music from device to device without going through the iTunes-designated hoops. That’s not to say that I think “all content should be free blah blah blah.” I don’t. But sharing stuff you own should be easy.

Which brings me to an iPod-related class action suit against Apple you may want to join. It won’t get you rich, but sometimes it just feels good to give someone who deserves it a dope slap.

I first heard about the suit a few days ago when I got an email that I almost deleted as spam. It was from something called the iPod Antitrust Administrator. Written in a tiny font, it informed me that as someone who purchased an iPod between Sept. 12, 2006, and March 31, 2009 I might be eligible to join a class action suit against Apple. Actually, it’s one of those things you have to opt out of; by default you’re already part of the suit.

Here’s gist of it, as explained on a page posted by the court:

Three individuals who bought iPods have sued Apple seeking to recover money for themselves and other people who bought iPods. The lawsuit claims that Apple violated federal and state laws by issuing software updates in 2006 for its iPod that prevented iPods from playing songs not purchased on iTunes. The lawsuit also claims that the software updates caused iPod prices to be higher than they otherwise would have been.

I believe the original suit had to do with a music download service called Harmony, started by RealNetworks. According to this 2004 story on Ars Technica, Harmony would have undercut pricing on iTunes by 50 cents a song, which ticked off Apple, which then retaliated by changing the firmware. (Apple, of course, denies that claim.)

That’s quite literally old news, and why it’s taken this long to move to a class action suit feels like something out of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. No matter. It costs nothing to join, and if you do nothing at all you’re already a member of the class. Who knows, you might get a few bucks.

More importantly, though, is the message the suit sends to Apple and others. Intellectual property needs to be protected, but like the odious SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), Apple goes too far and needs to be reined in.