Blades of money

Ice dancer may be new face of Apple iPod trial

An ice dancer from Massachusetts who claims that Apple policies obstructed her access to her favorite music is set to become the new lead plaintiff in an ongoing saga over iPods. As Bloomberg reports, 65-year-old Barbara Ragan Bennett volunteered for duty after the previous plaintiffs were disqualified:

“[Bennett] said that after buying her Nano in 2006, she couldn’t always find the ‘rare music’ she enjoys, including tango and Hungarian, for sale on iTunes. As a result, she had to buy CDs of the music and copy it onto her laptop before syncing with her Nano, she said.

‘It was very cumbersome,’ she said. ‘It cost me money and limited access to music for me.'”

The truth of Bennett’s claims will prove important since Apple used its sales records to show that two previous plaintiffs had not, as they claimed, actually bought iPods for themselves between March of 2006 and December of 2009. That is the period of time during which Apple allegedly broken antitrust laws by limiting which songs consumers could place on their music devices.

While [company]Apple[/company] sold millions of iPods during that period, the rules of class action procedure still require the lawyers to find someone to act as the “representative plaintiff” in the case. And because the original plaintiffs proved ineligible, the lawyers this week had to beat the bushes for a new plaintiff. Many people have reportedly come forward.

For their trouble, the representative plaintiff in a class action case usually gets a named amount for their trouble (often between $500 and $5,000), while all the other plaintiffs get a claim to the pot of money in the event the defendant pays up. The lawyers, of course, get first dibs on that pot, and typically claim about 25 percent.

In the case of the iPod lawsuit, the lawyers are seeking $350 million, which could be tripled under the rules of antitrust law.

Apple, meanwhile, has remained adamant it did nothing wrong, and recently stated that it wants to win the case on the merits, not on a technicality over the plaintiff.

The case turns on whether Apple’s DRM measures, which caused iPods to only play songs from the iTunes store or a CD, were a bona fide security feature — as the company claims — or were instead an illegal attempt to restrict competition in the music player market.

2 Responses to “Ice dancer may be new face of Apple iPod trial”

  1. ““[Bennett] said that after buying her Nano in 2006, she couldn’t always find the ‘rare music’ she enjoys, including tango and Hungarian, for sale on iTunes. As a result, she had to buy CDs of the music and copy it onto her laptop before syncing with her Nano, she said.

    ‘It was very cumbersome,’ she said. ‘It cost me money and limited access to music for me.’””

    Not sure I get the argument here – did Real or some other competing platform have the Hungarian tango music? If so, couldn’t she/shouldn’t she have purchased their player? Is Apple legally bound to provide every piece of music, ever? If she found ripping a CD to iTunes “cumbersome”, couldn’t she have just bought a portable CD player? And indeed, is the fact that music “cost her money” a valid basis for a class-action lawsuit?

    • Thanks for the comment, pdq3. Yes, the theory of the case is a little confusing. The argument is that Apple’s heavy-handed DRM practices — which meant songs bought for Real and competing platforms couldn’t play on the iPod — resulted in a customer “lock-in” and increased the cost of switching platforms. This, in turn, let Apple charge an (allegedly) illegal high price for the iPods in violation of antitrust laws.

      So, under this theory, the ice skater’s inconvenience locked her into the iPod, and makes her a suitable plaintiff).

      (For what it’s worth, I’m not convinced the overall theory will hold up)