New Lawsuit Claims Apple Deleted Users' Songs From iTunes Competitors

"You guys decided to give them the worst possible experience," says attorney for plaintiffs in class-action suit

Steve Jobs holds up the new iPod Nano during an announcement in San Francisco, California on Wednesday, Sept. 7th, 2005 Credit: Paul Sakuma/AP

Apple regularly deleted music that users had downloaded from iTunes competitors, attorneys declared Wednesday during a 10-year-old antitrust lawsuit involving iPods and a hacker with the name "DVD Jon," according to the Wall Street Journal. Between 2007 and 2009, some users attempting to sync their iPods containing non-Apple files received an error message and a "restore factory settings" prompt. After the restore, the music in question vanished forever.

"You guys decided to give them the worst possible experience," said Patrick Coughlin, attorney for plaintiffs in a class-action suit who are seeking $350 million in damages. (This figure could be tripled, per antitrust laws, if the U.S. District Court in Oakland rules against Apple.) Although the plaintiffs argue Apple deliberately misled users by not telling them about the problem, Apple security director Augustin Farrugia said in his testimony that "we don't need to give users too much information."

A representative for Apple declined to comment.

Evidence from the trial suggests Jobs and Apple were aggressive about limiting iPods and iTunes to the computer giant's exclusive services. In a 2005 e-mail, after finding out that a competitor was on the brink of allowing music fans to play songs from other services on iPods, Jobs told an employee: "We may need to change things here." Two years earlier, he'd e-mailed, "We need to make sure that when Music Match launches...they cannot use iPod."

But Farrugia said the reason for the aggressive moves had to do with security against hackers — named "DVD Jon" and "Requiem" — which made the company "very paranoid." In a 2011 deposition, Jobs made pointed remarks about his competitors; about Real Networks, an early owner of the Rhapsody service, he snapped, "Do they still exist?"