Federal Judge Rules Apple Lawsuit Over Digital “Buy” and “Rent” Labels Can Continue

inscription on the courthouse close-up
The lawsuit claims you can’t “buy” something Apple can take away from you.

A federal judge has rejected a motion to dismiss a putative class action lawsuit against Apple over how the company uses “Buy” and “Rent” labels when selling digital content. While the suit can go ahead, The Hollywood Reporter suggests it could still be settled before reaching the courts. 


David Andino, the lead plaintiff for the case, argues that Apple misleads customers by telling them it can “buy” digital versions of movies, TV shows, and music from its online stores. The reason is that Apple reserves the right to terminate access to that content, such as if Apple loses distribution rights for the content and the person hasn’t downloaded it to a device. 


“Just like Best Buy cannot come into a person’s home to repossess the movie DVD that such person purchased from it, defendant should not be able to remove, or permit the removal by others of, digital content from its customers,” says the lawsuit. “Though some consumers may get lucky and never lose access to any of their paid for media, others may one day find that their digital content is now gone forever.”


Apple attempted to get the case dismissed, but a ruling from US District Court Judge John Mendez shows that their arguments were not convincing. 


“Apple contends that ‘[n]o reasonable consumer would believe’ that purchased content would remain on the iTunes platform indefinitely,” Mendez wrote in an order. “But in common usage, the term ‘buy’ means to acquire possession over something. It seems plausible, at least at the motion to dismiss stage, that reasonable consumers would expect their access couldn’t be revoked.”


Mendez emphasized his point by quoting the dictionary definition of “buy,” which is to “acquire possession, ownership, or rights to the use or services of by payment especially of money.” 


Apple attempted to argue that any “injury” to Andino was speculative as he hadn’t lost access to the content. Andino responded by saying that the injury isn’t the potential of losing access in the future, but rather the deceptive use of the word “buy.” Using this word means Apple are misleading customers about their ownership of the goods and services in question. 


Apple saw a bit of success as they did have one part of the lawsuit dismissed. Andino’s claims to “unjust enrichment,” which would have affected how damages are calculated, was dismissed. Mendez did leave room for “injunctive relief,” which could affect how Apple markets and sells content in the future. 

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