Once upon a time, music purchased in Apple’s iTunes store was saddled with a DRM technology called “FairPlay.” It did just what you’d expect: keep unauthorized computers and devices from playing music purchased on the service. It’s gone from Apple’s music store now (but can still be found in eBooks and apps), but it’s still making waves: Apple is facing a $350 million anti-trust suit claiming the DRM was used to stifle market competition.
Apple will soon have to face a trial over accusations it used digital rights management, or DRM, to unlawfully maintain a lead in the iPod market, a federal judge has ruled. The plaintiffs’ lawyers, representing a class of consumers who bought iPods between 2006 and 2009, are asking for $350 million. Last week, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers gave the green light (PDF) to sending a long-running antitrust lawsuit against Apple to trial. Plaintiffs in the case say that Apple used its FairPlay DRM system to “lock in” its customers and make it costly to switch to technology built by competitors, like Real Networks. They describe how Apple kept updating iTunes to make sure songs bought from Real’s competing digital music store couldn’t be used on iPods. As a result of this lock-in, Apple was able to overcharge its customers to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.