Apple nuked rivals' songs from users' iPods, say lawyers in class-action suit


I used eMusic for much of my downloads during the period mentioned, and never experienced any deletions when transferring stuff to my iPod. Ditto for CD rips.

Did it ever display an error message suggesting you reset the device when you were syncing?

It’s not very clear from the headline, but this was when some other company reverse-engineered the iTunes DRM so they could sell DRMed songs to put on iPods without going through Apple. DRM-free songs always worked, of course.


I think this is to do with the Realplayer Harmony thing, which wasn’t exactly run by fluffy bunnies and kittens. They were converting their DRM to Fairplay compatible DRM, and if they were fiddling with database on the iPod, that could be legitimately screwed up when iTunes sees something it didn’t expect. Of course I have no idea if Apple were deliberately going about breaking this, or whether the kludge broke.

Plain MP3 files worked perfectly.

This isn’t really accurate… it’s not that iTunes didn’t play nice with music purchased from other sources, it’s that it didn’t play nice with DRM code from other sources. Any DRM-free mp3 or ACC files — ripped from CDs, downloaded illegally, or purchased from a DRM-free seller — could be imported to iPods seamlessly back then.

The core issue here was that back in 2004, RealPlayer cracked Apple’s proprietary DRM and tried to sell DRM’d music that would work on Apple hardware and software. Apple changed their DRM to disallow RealPlayer’s DRM, which made those tracks stop working.

This isn’t about Apple killing competition, it’s about Apple protecting its DRM from rival DRM… which was still a big bowl of turd soup, but not the same thing.

And of course, Apple eventually abandoned DRM on the music it sold entirely.


It was all so buggy anyhow, who could tell? I had a 1st gen Nano, and losing songs (non-DRMed) was a regular occurrence. Eventually I flashed it with Rockbox just to no longer have to deal with the hell of iTunes any more, and it stopped losing songs.


All of this probably won’t matter as it appears that neither of the plaintiffs in the case owned an iPod with the firmware in question, so they don’t have standing in the case.

From an article i had read yesterday night mentioned that a partial reasoning from Apple, whether its true or not, is that some of their motivation for having iTunes delete non-apple music was to avoid cracking/hacking of their devices and platforms. Honestly it sounds bogus, but it’s part of their defense in the matter.

Yeah, I’m frankly disappointed that this was framed as Apple going against “rivals’ songs”, rather than going against Real Networks, specifically. Imagine my dismay on finding out that they’re still around; if ever there was a company that deserved not only to die, but to be buried at a crossroads at midnight with a stake through its heart and garlic stuffed in its mouth, it was Real. Oh, what’s this from the Wikipedia entry?

On January 20, 2000, RealNetworks, Inc. filed an injunction against Streambox, Inc. regarding the aforementioned company’s product designed to convert Real Audio (.rm) formatted files to other formats.

You don’t say.


A BS lawsuit. As others mention, RealNetworks was converting music from their own DRM to Apple’s FairPlay DRM without permission. Apple updated FairPlay which resulted in the removing of music originating from RealPlayer from an iPod. It didn’t destroy the person’s music library, the person still had their music from RealPlayer on their computer. If you had DRM free music there was no problem putting it on an iPod. I think some lawyers were fishing for an excuse to sue Apple.

1 Like

Also, please note John Gruber’s take on this. Gruber is, of course, one of the more prominent pro-Apple bloggers, but he’s correct in noting that a) it’s always been OK to have DRM-free songs on iPods, and b) Steve Jobs was always against DRM, used it in iTunes only at the insistence of record companies, and got rid of it ASAP.


All true, but BB seems to jump at any chance to slog Apple, accuracy be damned.


why does this not surprise me? also, my faithful, amazing and perfect ipod 60gb (nearing 10 years old!) was almost bricked once when i put a particular album on it and then did a firmware update. now the whole thing is super buggy and sometimes goes through boot loops. i was able to somehow downgrade the firmware but it has never been the same. i will NEVER update apple firmware unless i absolutely have to because i fear that they purposefully write code in the new firmware that retards older devices to force you to buy new ones.

1 Like

Those old iPods are terrible. Glad you’ve been getting good use out of yours but i had plenty of friends have iPods totally brick merely by just plugging it in via USB. No file transfer or firmware update. Also heard of a guy at school who lost his final project on it in the middle of a file transfer, ended up smashing it in the classroom.

The problem was, as others have suggested, limited to DRM-protected tracks. Real’s “Harmony” would convert DRM-protected RealMedia tracks to Fairplay-protected AAC. Real’s software couldn’t use the same DRM key as iTunes so they encrypted files with their own key and used some shady methods of getting that key onto the iPod so it could play those tracks. iTunes would detect the iPod’s DRM had been tampered with and require a restore.

For what it’s worth, this wasn’t just Apple being picky. Real’s trick of replacing the iPod’s Fairplay key with their own could make protected tracks synced from iTunes unplayable. Also, the classic iPod could only handle syncing with one music library at a time. If you used workarounds it would cause major headaches. I used to use a Winamp plugin to sync mine, and iTunes would frequently complain the iPod was corrupt and make me restore it.

That sounds like the hard drive is failing. The 1.8" microdrive has the same form factor and interface as a CompactFlash card. You can replace the drive and have a solid-state iPod!

EDIT: Some iPods will take a straight CF card, some (Video and newer “iPod classic”) require a cheap adapter.

Yay, more Apple BS.

was almost bricked once when i put a particular album on it and then did a firmware update

uh, meaning that it wasn’t bricked? how is this noteworthy?

1 Like

That is the thing here: Apple’s contract with the music publishers required them to plug any leaks in FairPlay. I really don’t see much of a real-world chance for this suit. But unfortunately not all judges live in the real world.