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Apple found not guilty in iPod, iTunes Store lock-in suit

Apple has been cleared of wrongdoing in the recent antitrust case on iPod and iTunes Store lock-in, The Verge reports. The decade-old class-action lawsuit accused Apple of putting procedures in place in iTunes 7.0 that would remove music found on iPods from competing music services. Apple, for its part, claimed that the measures were simply “extra security” that the company added to its iPod and iTunes platforms in 2006. The lawsuit originally asked for damaged of more than $350 million to be distributed across 8 million consumers who bought affected iPod models between September 2006 and March 2009. Had Apple been found guilty of violating antitrust laws, however, the company could have potentially been liable for damages of more than $1 billion.

In a unanimous decision today, the eight-person jury in the trial rules that iTunes 7.0 was a “genuine product improvement” that was good for consumers, rather than a deliberate attempt by Apple to thwart competition by limiting purchased music to only Apple’s platform, as plaintiffs in the case had tried to argue. During the trial, Apple had repeatedly compared its iTunes and iPod ecosystem to integrated systems such as video game consoles, stating that it had simply built all of the pieces to work together. Further, the company’s lawyers noted that the DRM that ultimately locked out competitors was a necessary requirement of Apple’s deals with the major record companies, and that Apple was contractually obligated under the terms of those deals to patch any security holes that could have led to piracy of purchased content.

Antitrust lawyers claim Apple deleted competing songs from users’ iPods

Apple has been accused of deleting music from users’ iPods that had been downloaded from competing music services, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal. In the recently commenced class-action antitrust suit against Apple regarding iPod and iTunes Store lock-in, lawyers for the consumers told jurors that between 2007 and 2009, Apple knowingly had procedures in place to delete music found on iPods from competing music services without telling users. When users who had downloaded music from a rival service attempted to sync an iPod to their iTunes library, an error message would be displayed by iTunes instructing the user to restore to factory settings, a process that removes all content on the portable device and then reloads it from the user’s iTunes library. This process caused songs from rival services to disappear, the lawyers said, further alleging that Apple directed the system “not to tell users the problem.” The plaintiffs in the case claim that this demonstrates that Apple was stifling competition for music players and downloads from other services; they are seeking $350 million in damages based on the claim that Apple’s lock-in forced them to pay more for music players by being forced to keep buying iPods rather than being able to consider competing options.

Apple responded by stating the moves were legitimate security measures, with the company’s security director, Augustin Farrugia, testifying that Apple did not provide detailed information as the company doesn’t “need to give users too much information,” and doesn’t “want to confuse users” – an approach that is typical in the software designed by the company. Farrugia noted that Apple was “very paranoid” about protecting iTunes in light of hackers that were working to crack the FairPlay copy protection used by iTunes and the iPod, and that updates which removed non-Apple music files were intended to protect customers. “The system was totally hacked,” Farrugia said. E-mails from Steve Jobs presented in evidence revealed similar security concerns.

Verizon sponsoring ad-free listening to all U.S. iTunes Radio users

As part of its “Connection Day” promotion, Verizon is sponsoring a virtually ad-free iTunes Radio experience today. Featuring “limited interruptions,” instead of seeing normal ads on the service, iTunes Radio listeners will instead just see the message “Enjoy with limited interruptions courtesy of Verizon.” A banner ad will also occasionally appear, offering lucky listeners a $5 iTunes Store credit. The promotion is available today only and applies to all iTunes Radio listeners in the U.S., not just Verizon customers. iTunes Match users, who already have an ad-free listening experience, are not eligible to access the $5 iTunes credit promotion. [via 9to5Mac]

iTunes music sales down at least 13 percent worldwide

A new report from The Wall Street Journal reveals that iTunes music sales have fallen by 13 to 14 percent worldwide this year, citing people familiar with the matter. This is in stark contrast to only a 2.1 percent overall dip last year in global revenue from music downloads – a decline that was said to be offset by increases from ad-supported and subscription services. As previously reported, Apple has been working to cut music subscription prices and has plans to rebuild its recently-acquired Beats Music and relaunch it next year as an iTunes service, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Despite the drop, Apple remains the largest seller of music in the world, both physical and digital, and according to music executives, its dominance over other digital music stores is “especially pronounced.” Although overall music sales were mostly steady last year due to physical CD sales, some record company executives are reportedly concerned that the music industry could fall into decline if download sales drop more quickly than streaming service growth accelerates. Notably, executives are working to persuade users of online music services to pay a monthly subscription fee, rather than using free ad-supported services which are said to generate considerably less revenue for the music labels. According to the RIAA, streaming services now account for nearly one-third of the revenue from recorded music in the U.S.

Notably, Apple reported a healthy increase in overall iTunes sales this quarter, which includes other types of content such as apps, movies, and books, although the company does not break out sales by individual content type.

Apple working to cut music subscription prices

A new report from Re/code reveals that Apple is working to get the price of its subscription music services down to as low as $5/month. Apple was reportedly asking the labels to cut prices to pave the way for a cheaper Beats music subscription, and is suggesting that top iTunes buyers spend about $60/year on music downloads, which equates to about $5/month. On a $5/month subscription model, the music labels would therefore not lose any revenue as a result of those download buyers switching over to a streaming model, and would in fact potentially gain more revenue in the form of new subscribers who may not otherwise spend as much on downloads. The Re/code report also notes that Spotify has just made changes to its streaming plan, offering a “family plan” price of $5/month for additional accounts beyond the first account, suggesting that some room exists in the label agreements for lowering pricing. It’s also worth noting that competing streaming service Rdio has been offering a similar “family plan” for about two years now.

Apple formally debuts iTunes 12 after three months of betas

Oddly released without any fanfare in beta form to developers back in July, iTunes 12 has officially debuted at Apple’s media event today. As noted in our What’s New in iTunes 12 article, the Mac and PC application has received a “flatter” cosmetic overhaul inspired by iOS 7 and iOS 8. It largely does away with the traditional sidebar found in earlier versions of iTunes — a feature that was hidden but still present in iTunes 11 — to embrace a more media library-heavy interface. Various types of media are now individually browsed and managed using icons at the upper left of the iTunes window, with separate iTunes Store access points for each medium.

iTunes 12 has been announced for OS X Yosemite, but not yet for older versions of OS X or Windows PCs. Updated: It is now available for download for OS X 10.7.5 and newer through iTunes.com, as well as for Windows XP and newer.

U2’s Bono apologizes for automatic iTunes album download

A recent U2 interview posted on Facebook saw the band members taking questions from fans, and one of the questions concerned the automatic free download of U2’s Songs of Innocence album to iTunes playlists: “Can you please never release an album on iTunes that automatically downloads to peoples [sic] playlists ever again? It’s really rude.” The album was accessible for free to 500 million iTunes customers; early estimates claimed 33 million users accessed the album.

The question was posed to U2 frontman Bono, who answered, “Oops. Um. I’m sorry about that. I had this beautiful idea and we got carried away with ourselves. Artists are prone to that kind of thing. Drop of megalomania, touch of generosity, dash of self-promotion, and deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years mightn’t be heard. There’s a lot of noise out there. I guess we — we got a little noisy ourselves to get through it.”

Apple releases another iTunes 12 beta

Apple has released a new beta for iTunes 12. We took an in-depth look at the first iTunes 12 beta in late July, and we’ll update this story with changes found in the new edition. The latest beta includes a few more cosmetic changes, such as simplifying certain Preferences screens, adding media categories with keyboard shortcuts to the View menu, and improving support for viewing sync settings when multiple iOS devices or iPods are connected.

Apple and U2 working on ‘secret project’ to boost music sales

Last week, Apple and U2 teamed up to release the band’s newest album — Songs of Innocence — for free on iTunes. A new article from Time claims that the company and band are also teaming up on a “secret project” to boost digital music sales. According to the article, Bono “hopes that a new digital music format in the works will prove so irresistibly exciting to music fans that it will tempt them again into buying music — whole albums as well as individual tracks.” Details are very sparse, but it’s highly possible that this new project could involve a long-rumored higher-bitrate iTunes audio format, and/or the inclusion of iTunes Extras for albums, as Apple currently does with HD videos.

Apple: 33M iTunes users have accessed U2 album

Apple has announced that 33 million iTunes account holders have accessed U2’s Songs of Innocence album for free. That figure includes customers who downloaded the album, streamed it, or listened to it using iTunes’ radio player. A report notes that Apple SVP Eddy Cue “called the number record-breaking, but did not elaborate.” For those uninterested in the latest effort from U2, Apple has released a guide on how to remove the album from your iTunes music library. [via Associated Press]

iTunes Festival channel returns to Apple TV

The iTunes Festival channel has reappeared on Apple TV, not long before the festival kicks off in London. Apple’s iTunes Festival starts September 1 and runs through the whole month. As has been the case previously, the channel will let users watch live HD streaming video of the performances, as well as on-demand recordings after performances have ended. New acts, including Mary J. Blige, deadmau5, and Ed Sheeran, were recently added to the schedule. Currently, only two days of the festival have acts yet to be announced, as the schedule is mostly set.

Apple releases new iTunes 12 beta

Apple has released a new beta for iTunes 12. We took an in-depth look at the first iTunes 12 beta in late July, and we’ll update this story with changes found in the new edition. The latest beta includes a few more cosmetic changes, such as redesigned media section icons and a new “Recently Added” section in areas such as Movies and TV Shows.

Apple honors Robin Williams with webpage, iTunes section

Apple is honoring Robin Williams on its website and in its iTunes Store following the recent death of the actor and comedian. A new “Remembering Robin Williams” webpage has been posted on Apple’s official website — a rare occurrence. Additionally, the iTunes Store now has its own “Remembering Robin Williams” section. The section gathers many of Williams’ movies in one place, in addition to the first season of his recent TV show, The Crazy Ones, and a few of his comedy albums.

Apple releases iTunes 11.3.1

Apple has released iTunes 11.3.1, a minor update that fixes a few podcast bugs — one problem caused podcast subscriptions to stop updating with new episodes, and another issue caused iTunes to become unresponsive while browsing podcast episodes. Users can get the update through Software Update in the Mac App Store or at Apple’s iTunes download page.

iTunes 12 makes its first appearance with iOS-style design

Alongside the latest OS X Yosemite beta preview, Apple has issued the first beta of iTunes 12. This represents the first time the app has been seen at all, although a new red icon was visible in the dock during Apple’s Yosemite presentation at WWDC. iTunes 12.0 includes a new “streamlined,” iOS 7/8-style design, Family Sharing, improved playlists, and a redesigned info window. The app has shifted to using black and white iOS-influenced iconography, and lets you view device media and other content (“Apps,” “Music,” “Photos”) in vertical lists rather than with horizontal tabs.

The app is available to registered developers through the Mac App Store.

Eighth annual iTunes Festival announced

Apple has announced the eighth annual iTunes Festival, a concert series held in London at the Roundhouse. There will be 30 days of concerts throughout September, which will be broadcast live to an iOS app, iTunes on the desktop, and Apple TV. This year’s artists include Maroon 5, Pharrell Williams, Beck, and Blondie. Apple held its first ever U.S. edition of the iTunes Festival at SXSW in March. More information is available on iTunes.

iTunes Pass service extends to U.S., other countries

After launching in Japan on Tuesday, Apple’s new iTunes Pass credit system has been rolled out in the United States, as well as Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The system allows iTunes customers to refill their iTunes Store balance by having an Apple Store Specialist scan a QR code on a pass in Passbook; once payment is issued, the credit is automatically applied. To add iTunes Pass to Passbook, one must open the iTunes Store app on an iPhone or iPod touch, scroll down to the bottom, and then tap Redeem.

iTunes 11.3 brings HD Extras to Mac; iTunes Extras comes to Apple TV (Update)

Apple has released iTunes 11.3, bringing iTunes Extras for HD movies to the Mac — iTunes Extras has also been added to Apple TV within software update 6.2 for the set-top box. As noted in the release, “iTunes Extras can include behind-the-scenes videos, short films, high-resolution image galleries, director’s commentary, scenes, and more.” iTunes Extras will also be brought to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch with iOS 8 in the fall. Previously purchased HD content will automatically gain the iTunes Extras content with any additional purchases necessary.

Update: With the update, Apple is changing the way it treats HD video files, as one download now contains all extras, and some movies start by showing users a screen more akin to a DVD menu. A consistent Extras UI works across iTunes, iOS, and Apple TV, sometimes including even more content than was previously available. The Bourne Legacy, for instance, adds 5 additional featurettes to the two originally included. Photos are included after the jump.

Apple promoting books Amazon won’t sell

Apple is looking to take advantage of Amazon’s ongoing dispute with Hachette Book Group — or at least ruffle Amazon’s feathers — by promoting discounted Hachette books in its iTunes Store. Currently, Apple is promoting 26 books under the heading “Popular Pre-Orders: $9.99 or Less,” and all of the books are from Hachette. Re/Code confirmed the promotion with Apple, but pricing arrangements were not disclosed. Amazon and Hachette couldn’t reach an agreement during contact negotiations and have been at odds ever since, with Amazon stating it is “buying less (print) inventory and ‘safety stock’ ” from Hachette.

iTunes Radio adds ESPN Radio, local NPR stations

ESPN Radio and a number of local NPR stations are now available on iTunes Radio. The stations are notably live streaming stations, rather than customizable iTunes Radio stations.

NPR launched its first iTunes Radio station, NPR News and Culture, in March. A search for “NPR” within iTunes Radio today turned up 41 local stations, though there may be more available. [via Apple Insider]

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