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Creative settles MP3 player capacity clash

When is a gigabyte not a gigabyte?

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Creative has been successfully brought to book over the way it previously calculated hard drive-based MP3 player storage capacities.

The company was accused of misrepresenting the storage capacity of its players by two punters, Vibhu Talwar and Patrick Finkelstein, who fomalised their complaint at the US District Court of Western California way back in May 2005. Two years later, the case was granted Class Action status.

It was said by the plaintiffs that Creative's definition of a gigabyte was incorrect, leading to false claims about the capacities of its players. Creative worked on the basis that 1GB was exactly one billion bytes 1,000,000,000B. In fact, a gigabyte, is 1,073,741,824B.

Byte multiples should be calculated on the basis of binary, not decimal maths. Essentially, that means 1KB is not 1000 bytes, but 1024 bytes. Megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes and so forth are multiples of 1024 not 1000.

So Creative gigabytes, the plaintiffs said, were seven per cent smaller than real gigabytes.

For its part, Creative has always claimed it was not attempting to mislead consumers, and denied that anyone has ever suffered as a result of the way it states drive capacities. It continues to stand by that claim.

Late last month, the parties reached a settlement now filed with the court and made public. Anyone in the US who bought a Creative MP3 player before 1 January 2004 can file a claim against Creative. At that point, all Creative players contained a warning that explained the company's definition of a gigabyte and that "available capacity will be less... reported capacity will vary".

That's a caveat widely used by companies supplying products that contain storage, from media players to PCs.

Claimants can choose between a new 1GB Zen Stone music player at half price - it usually costs $35 - or opt for a 20 per cent discount applied to a single item bought from Creative's online store.

The deadline to file a claim is 7 August 2008. A month later, the settlement is due to be formally approved by the court. If it's approved, Creative will then - and only then - begin processing the claims.

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