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Apple accused of deleting songs from iPods without users' knowledge

During in-court proceedings of Apple's iPod/iTunes antitrust lawsuit on Wednesday, plaintiffs' lawyers claimed Apple surreptitiously deleted songs not purchased through the iTunes Music Store from users' iPods.




Attorney Patrick Coughlin, representing a class of individuals and businesses, said Apple intentionally wiped songs downloaded from competing services when users performed a sync with their iTunes library, reports The Wall Street Journal.

As explained by the publication, users attempting to sync an iPod with an iTunes library containing music from a rival service, such as RealNetworks, would see an ambiguous error message without prompting them to perform a factory reset. After restoring the device, users would find all non-iTunes music had disappeared.

"You guys decided to give them the worst possible experience and blow up" the iTunes library, Coughlin said.

It is unclear if iTunes or iPod encountered a legitimate problem, though Coughlin seems to be intimating Apple manufactured the error message as part of a supposed gambit to stop customers from using their iPod to play back music from stores other than iTunes.

For its part, Apple said the system was a safety measure installed to protect users. In testimony, Apple security director Augustin Farrugia said additional detail about the error's nature was not necessary because, "We don't need to give users too much information," and "We don't want to confuse users." He went on to say that Apple was "very paranoid" in its protection of iTunes, a sentiment echoed in an executive email penned by Steve Jobs in 2004.

Heard in court yesterday, Jobs' emails and a videotaped deposition revealed Apple was "very scared" of breaking contractual sales agreements with music labels, which in turn prompted an increased interest in digital rights management (DRM). Although iTunes no longer sells DRM-protected content, Jobs said frequent iTunes updates were needed to protect as "hackers" found new workarounds.

Apple is accused of creating a monopoly locking users into a closed ecosystem with FairPlay digital rights management (DRM), the iPod and the iTunes Music Store. The class includes individuals and businesses who bought iPod classic, iPod shuffle, iPod touch or iPod nano models between Sept. 12, 2006 and March 31, 2009, and plaintiffs are seeking $350 million in damages, an amount that could be tripled to over $1 billion under U.S. antitrust laws.

Aside from Jobs' deposition, current Apple execs Eddy Cue and Phil Schiller are scheduled to testify later this week.