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Closing arguments have finished in the class action suit against Apple for allegedly blocking iPod owners from downloading music from non-iTunes music services. A week and a half after the whole thing started, it’s now in the hands of the jurors in a federal court in Oakland, Calif.
The trial has been a strange one. The ghost of Steve Jobs testified on video in the courtroom. The two featured plaintiffs were dropped from the case after Apple lawyers discovered that neither had purchased an iPod during the time period in which they claimed harm. But the lawyers found a new plaintiff last Monday, and the trial continued on.
The case, which dates back a decade, centers around the question of whether a 2006 DRM software update to iTunes was a regular old upgrade — or was designed and timed simply to knock music from other services off users’ iPods. Apple doesn’t deny that some iPods were wiped of the foreign content, but it denies that that was the intended result of the upgrade.
Apple’s attorneys argued that the 2006 upgrade — called iTunes 7.1 — added security and other new features like video support. Apple also argued that the opposing side failed to produce enough people who were actually harmed.
Plaintiff’s attorneys are on the hook to prove that a 2005 memo from Jobs to iTunes product manager Jeffrey Robbin was the first cause of Apple’s move to issue the new upgrade. “Jeff we may have to change things here … ” is the only relevant text from the email. Jobs was reacting to news that a small software company had produced a piece of software that would allow iPod users to download files from music sites other than Apple’s.
The burden of proof seems to be on the plaintiffs. If they’re successful, Apple will have to pay $350 million in damages. If they’re not, a lot of attorneys might be left to wonder what became of the last 10 years of their lives.
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