John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Too Bad Stupidity's Not Illegal–Apple Might Have a Valid Counterclaim…

sosumi.jpgIn the annals of irony, the antitrust suit that accuses Apple of illegally maintaining a monopoly in the digital music market by failing to support Microsoft’s Windows Media Audio format ranks right up there with Ludwig van Beethoven’s loss of hearing and American Civil War General John Sedgwick proclaiming “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance” moments before being shot through the eye by a Confederate sniper. It’s so ironic it’s almost post-ironic.

Filed by Windows Media Audio fetishist Stacie Somers in late December, the suit claims Apple’s current dominance of the market for online video, online music and digital music players constitutes a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

“Apple’s iPod is alone among mass-market Digital Music Players in not supporting the WMA format,” the complaint states, noting that America Online, Wal-Mart, Napster, MusicMatch, Best Buy, Yahoo Music, FYE Download Zone and Virgin Digital all support WMA. “Apple has engaged in tying and monopolizing behavior, placing unneeded and unjustifiable technological restrictions on its most popular products in an effort to restrict consumer choice, and to restrain what little remains of its competition in the digital music markets. Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs had himself compared Apple’s digital music dominance to Microsoft’s personal computer operating system dominance, calling Apple’s Music Store ‘the Microsoft of music stores’ in a meeting with financial analysts.”

The suit further alleges that while iPods have the hardware to play WMA files, Apple purposely prevents them from doing so. “Apple, however, deliberately designed the iPod’s software so that it would only play a single protected digital format, Apple’s FairPlay-modified AAC format,” the complaint states. “Deliberately disabling a desirable feature of a computer product is known as ‘crippling’ a product, and software that does this is known as ‘crippleware.’ “

So to summarize: Apple’s hard won success in the digital media market has made it a monopolist. And as a solution to its monopolistic behavior, the plaintiff proposes forcing the company to license a proprietary media format developed by a convicted monopolist. This, in spite of the fact that Apple’s iPod supports not only the FairPlay-modified AAC audio format, but the vendor-neutral AAC format and the MP3, MP3 VBR, Audible, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV formats as well.

See the logic in that?


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