Apple execs can breathe easy, because despite admitting it deleted third party music from users’ iPods, and following accusations that it wanted to prevent music that wasn’t bought through iTunes from being loaded onto iPods altogether, it’s been found not guilty of anti-competitive conduct and breaching anti-trust laws.
The eight person jury came to the verdict after hearing evidence for the trial’s two week duration, and deliberating the issue for just under four hours.
The decision to be made was whether or not a 2006 update to Apple’s iTunes software actually constituted a genuine product improvement. iTunes 7.0 bought in features like videos and album art, but it also disabled iPods that were found to have songs purchased from competitor stores that reverse-engineered Apple’s FairPlay digital rights management tech. FairPlay was based on terms of Apple’s deals with record companies and restricted what machines music could be played on. Without FairPlay, music could not be loaded onto an iPod at all.
The jury found that the update was a genuine product improvement, and because of this it meant that Apple was under no obligation to assist its competitors in any way. If this had not been the case then it would have to be determined whether Apple had a monopoly over digital music distribution at the time, and whether or not it had acted to keep itself in that position.
As complicated as that may seem, what the trial really came down to was whether or not Apple intentionally misled its customers about the nature of the software updates. The jury didn’t agree that it did, meaning Apple is in the clear.