A California jury found Apple not guilty on Tuesday, ending a years-long legal battle waged by consumers against the former kings of the digital download. The suit alleged that Apple deleted music downloaded from competing services (e.g., Microsoft’s Zune) off of users’ iPods without their knowledge between the years of 2006 and 2009. The jurors, however, didn’t quite see it that way.
They delivered a unanimous verdict in which they called Apple’s iTunes 7.0, released in the fall of 2006, a “genuine product improvement” and not an attempt to keep other music services out of the digital market. The plaintiffs had argued that these so-called improvements were exclusionary to competition and demeaned the user experience. One of their lawyers even claimed that the tech giant “decided to give [iPod users] the worst possible experience” by decimating their music libraries. When a user wanted to sync music downloaded from another service onto an iPod, he said, an error message would pop up and the music would disappear.
Apple’s lawyers pointed out in their closing statements that the plaintiffs had no actual customers complaining about their user experience, and two plaintiffs originally named in the suit were taken off after lawyers found they had never actually purchased iPods during the named time period. According to the New York Times, William Isaacson, Apple’s lead lawyer in the case, said, “There’s not one piece of evidence of a single individual who lost a single song, not even a complaint about it. This is all made up at this point.”
If it had been found guilty, Apple could potentially have had to pay damages of more than $1 billion due to a provision of the antitrust law that allows a court to apply “treble damages.” The plaintiffs initially sought damages of $350 million.