Apple Fires Back in Court: First Witness Defends DRM on iPod

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Apple called its first witness on Wednesday to defend its position in the iPod antitrust class-action lawsuit. John Kelly, an ex–University of California at Santa Barbara computer science professor, shared with the court the story behind Apple’s iTunes software updates (via CNBC).

It’s those updates that locked roughly 8 million iPod owners into the iTunes ecosystem, argue the plaintiffs. Apple’s position is that the DRM software — which prevented users from playing music other than what they had downloaded from iTunes — was necessary to improve intellectual property protection from rampant piracy.

Kelly explained how the competition managed to bypass Apple’s DRM software, but the company addressed that with a software update. That was because of the need to protect intellectual property, as we heard from Eddy Cue earlier.

The iPod antitrust case was that close to being dismissed, as Apple successfully disqualified the two named plaintiffs of the class-action lawsuit. However, earlier this week Barbara Bennett stepped into the picture, saving the case, as all signs suggest that the amateur ice skate dancer will be able to represent the 8 million affected users.

Apple’s second witness will be University of Chicago economics professor Kevin Murphy.

The jury will start deliberating next week and will decide whether Apple violated antitrust laws by locking iPod owners into the iTunes ecosystem. Although Apple dropped DRM software for music five years ago, the bill for its earlier move can go as high as $1 billion.

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