Antitrust troubles in Cupertino? Apple DRM suit explained

In its SEC filing last week, Apple revealed a multitude of legal nags it was dealing with, most notable being that iPod-iTunes class action lawsuit, which brings with it some hefty antitrust allegations. Tucker vs. Apple Computer, which was originally filed on July 21st, alleges that "Apple has engaged in tying and monopolizing behavior, placing unneeded and unjustifiable technological restrictions on its most popular products in an effort to restrict consumer choice and restrain what little remains of its competition in the digital music markets." It also claims that by removing WMA functionality from those Portal Player chips is tantamount to "crippleware," with Apple's insistence on AAC being an "illegal tie in violation of antitrust laws." Some hefty claims, to which Apple responded in its request for dismissal on November 6 that "imposing a duty of interoperability would inhibit the very innovation and technological advances that the antitrust laws are designed to promote." US District Judge James put the kibosh on any dismissal nonsense, saying "the existence of valid business reasons in antitrust cases is generally a question of fact not appropriate for resolution at the motion to dismiss stage." Hard to say how this all will go down when the case continues at a "case management conference" on January 22nd, and the very fact of DRM-free CD rips working quite harmoniously with the iPod seem to put the case in a different light than those Microsoft antitrust woes of yore, but we'll be sure keeping an eye on this one all the same.