A lawsuit has been filed by Stacie Somers, a resident of San Diego County, California, who bought a 30GB iPod from Target, and who is apparently upset that she has to buy music from iTunes, an alleged monopoly. The complaint is that iPods won’t play audio files protected by Microsoft DRM, and that songs purchased from iTunes can only be played on iPods. (See this InfoWorld story).
This one just ticks me off! For starters, users can indeed by DRM-free music from the likes of Amazon.com (the Amazon.com downloader even seamlessly adds the purchased music to iTunes), and Amazon.com started selling DRM-free music before Stacie filed her ridiculous suit. In addition, Stacie seems to be unaware that she does not have to buy anything from Apple directly at all. She can simple buy any music from anywhere for use with iPods, all she has to do is just buy music CDs!
But even more fundamental is this: No one forced you to buy an iPod, Stacie. Owning an iPod is a choice, a choice you made. You had the choice to not buy an iPod, just like you had the choice to not buy any MP3 player at all. And as you shopped at Target (as opposed to an Apple store) you actually had lots of other choices aside from iPods! So, quit whining, and next time learn about the product you buy before you exercise your own free choice to buy it!
Bottom line, this lawsuit should be tossed out immediately. And if at all possible, the courts should make Stacie Somers reimburse Apple for all costs associated with this stupidity.

19 thoughts

  1. I’m in total agreement with you Ben. It’s ridiculous that someone is suing because they are not happy with their purchase. Why doesn’t she just return it and get something else if she has a problem. My first ipod didn’t give me any troubles til the hard drive went on it 8 months ago but I was happy with the technology and the ability to carry around all my music (@ least 200 cds worth of music) so I upgraded to the video iPod from the iPod Photo. She should pick up a book and learn what she can do with her iPod before she filed a lawsuit. I mean barnes and noble and many other bookstores allow you to read some of the book before you buy it so why not see what you can do with the iPod before you buy the thing.

  2. Really not a big fan of anything Apple does or ever has done (even the Lisa was ridiculously overpriced), mostly because of their strong-arm approach to their own customers and products, but that’s besides the point here. You are spot on, Ben. I don’t hate the iPod, could really care less, but the more I learned about the limitations of the iTunes interactivity, the more I tended towards other MP3 players, which I had the option of buying. I recently purchased a Sansa and am quite happy with it … but if I had purchased an iPod it would have been entirely with acceptance that I was going to have to use iTunes and therefore rely on music purchased there or on CDs from my own collection. Not a huge deal either way, since I fill my MP3 primarily from own collection in any case, but the point remains that the connection of Apple’s iPod to Apple’s iTunes is in no way some sort of corporate secret.
    I hope she loses and you are absolutely right that she should pay San Diego County for every penny they’ve paid to support her stupid suit.

  3. This is yet another example of why frivolous litigation should be a felony. Real cases cannot be heard because crazy cases like this one are clogging the system.

  4. Jason….
    The iPod works with open formats like MP3, WAV, AIFF, MA4 (mp4 actually) among other. Where’s the exclusion? What is Apple supposed to do, support every also-ran, failed format in the world?
    As a matter of fact WMA is a microsoft proprietory format.

  5. I know there’s not a format exclusion … if there was, then ripping from CD would be an issue. But there is certainly an issue of platform, requiring use of iTunes. As I noted, it’s certainly not a big issue and it is absolutely not a crime. It is, however, just not to my liking that Apple can control the DMA of the tunes they sell long after a buyer has made an iTunes store purchase. So, not a big deal if you’re not planning to buy from iTunes store, but still I simply don’t appreciate the business practices that underlay it all. For me, being able to acquire any MP3 and drag and drop it onto any MP3 player is sufficient. Again, doesn’t make Apple criminal at all, and in fact the open ability to choose any other player (or other formats, I suppose, if one wanted to) is at the heart of why this lawsuit is so utterly meritless.

  6. …but remember…Apple was forced (at the time) to implement some kind of rights management to acquire the catalogs of songs from the record labels. They are now dragging them kicking and screaming into the future where there will be now restrictions at all, as Sony BMG would become the last of the top four music labels to drop DRM, following Warner Music Group, EMI and Vivendi’s Universal Music Group.
    It’s good for everyone to be able to use their purchased songs as they wish.

  7. Jason,
    If you just don’t like it that you need to use iTunes with the iPod, I get it. But then, you should probably not want to be tied to any company’s software drivers for their products, or buy any software that works with only one operating system.
    And I want to point out that MP3 songs can be loaded into and played in iTunes. In fact, iTunes and iPod provided this even before Windows Media Player and before many WMA players. And Apple bought the company that created FairPlay just a few months before the debut of the iTunes.

  8. While I can understand her frustration of being tied to a particular software product, it definitely is not lawsuit materiel. My wife has an iPod and I have a Zune and it’s frustrating that downloaded music from iTunes and Zune sites are not "drag and drop" to any device. I buy some music fom iTunes because they tend to have the songs I’m looking for where Zune and Amazon don’t. I like Amazon becuase we can drag and drop songs to either device without having to burn an audio CD and then converting to mp3. Should Stacie be forced to pay…no. Unless there’s a law that prohibits frivilous lawsuits in all areas it would be unfair to single her out. Regardless of whether you agree with her motive or lack of understanding of doing research before you buy a product, she has not broken any laws. I’m not a fan of Apple’s practices, but I would never sue then because I failed at my responsibility as a consumer.

  9. I agree it sounds totally silly… but I also believe it’s up to our court system to work it out. The thing is, you’re probably too busy to be in charge of which cases to throw out. I believe courts can simply not accept a case for such reasons as the claimant has no standing. I also think it’s possible that the claimant would have to pay for certain court costs. In any case, I think Apple is a big enough company to know how to handle this.
    I guess my general point is that some cases really sound whacky but it isn’t so easy to judge. Maybe this is an extreme case. But there was also the "coffee too hot" thing that sounded dumb too… but upon further study one would learn that the coffee really was WAY too hot. And, customers had made tons of complaints to this effect. We just don’t know all the details and I’m confident that court system will resolve this appropriately at its normal rate of success (unfortunately less than 100% perfect).

  10. It’s ridiculous that someone is suing because they are not happy with their purchase. Why doesn’t she just return it and get something else if she has a problem. I hope she loses and you are absolutely right that she should pay San Diego County for every penny they’ve paid to support her stupid suit.
    This is why the courts have years of backlogs in cases.

  11. This is what happens when something like the iPod becomes a social icon. Don’t get me wrong, Apple’s always been great at marketing and creating a more ‘hip’ brand in general and it’s great. The downside is in situations like this.
    Even if this would’ve gone to court it would start and end with one question/answer….
    Ms. (or Mrs.) Somers, why did you choose an iPod?
    The most likely answer (I’d bet) would be…
    Because my friends have one.
    Harsh maybe but true.

  12. Napster just announced that they are removing the copy protection locks: which means downloads from it can now be played on the iPod. This makes the lawsuit by Ms. Somers even more frivolous.
    I have a rather large collection of classical CDs. As a result, I just burn my existing collection onto my 60gb Video iPod.

  13. On the Stella Liebeck hot coffee case, what "further study" reveals depends on whose website you vist to do your study. If you visit the sites of plaintiffs’ attorneys or even Snopes, you’ll come away thinking that the lawsuit was justified. If on the other hand you look a little further, you’ll find that the "tons of complaints" was 700 over the previous ten years to the entire corporation, or about 1 for every 24 million cups of coffee McDonald’s sold. You’ll also find that industry experts agree that coffee tastes better at the higher temperatures and continue to recommend that it be prepared that hot, that the top-end home machines brew it that hot, and that Starbucks serves their coffee that hot. Let’s also ponder the wisdom of putting a cup of hot coffee in your crotch while wearing absorbent sweatpants and taking the lid off.

  14. Okay, the details of McDonald’s is in dispute–maybe that’s not a good example. Though, if they had 700 complaints–you can figure more people didn’t like it–they just didn’t complain.
    In any event, I’ve thought more about this case and tried (even to an absurd level) think about what else this plaintiff could have been thinking. Here are some thoughts (again, I’m not saying they’re 100% reasonable):
    1. Just because you know how to rip a CD she may not.
    2. Many CDs have copy protection crap on them so that becomes moot.
    3. I believe the iPod requires iTunes so it may not be dreadfully obvious that you can buy songs elsewhere and then copy them over to iTunes.
    4. The amazon.com example is great because it’s integrated with iTunes… plus why would anyone buy anything from iTunes anyway? The quality is crappier and it’s got DRM.
    Okay, so that last point actually works against the claim. I’m just saying there could be more to it–though, on the surface it does look lame.

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