Apple’s Steve Jobs Provides Evidence In iPod Lawsuit

Apple stands accused of creating and abusing a monopoly position in the digital music player market in a lawsuit.

And the actions of Steve Jobs are being closely examined, as he is alleged to be the mastermind behind Apple’s supposed anti-competitive behaviour.

Ongoing Lawsuit

The billion dollar lawsuit is a long-running legal dogfight in California courtrooms, that was launched back in January 2005. The class action lawsuit was filed by a number of individuals and businesses, and the case has finally gone to trial this week in a US district court in Oakland, California.

The lawsuit essentially accuses Apple of using restrictive digital rights management (DRM) software that prevented iPods from playing digital music sold by iTunes competitors such as Musicmatch and Real Networks. Indeed, Apple has been accused of “deleting” songs from rival services on some iPods during the past decade.

The case centres on Apple’s FairPlay DRM technology, which it used to lock down iPods from playing music from other digital music stores. Apple stopped using that DRM software on music back in 2009, but it is reportedly still used for apps on the iTunes store.

And Apple co-founder and former CEO, Steve Jobs, is playing a central role in the lawsuit. His emails are being closely examined and a videotaped deposition of Steve Jobs about the issue, taken six months before his death in October 2011, will be shown to jurors.

It is understood that Apple is defending the use of the DRM software as necessary to protect licenses with major record labels. Jobs was asked during his deposition whether music labels were pressing Apple for “greater interoperability” between the iPod and competing technology.

“Apple’s point of view was, you know, we were the only big company involved in this stuff at that time, the one with the deepest pockets,” Jobs was quoted by Bloomberg as saying in the 2011 testimony. Apple had “black-and-white contracts” with record labels that would be violated if consumers could strip licensed songs from iPods and install them on other devices, he said.

“So I remember we were very concerned about that,” Jobs added. “And we went to great pains to make sure that people couldn’t hack into our digital rights management system because if they could, we would get nasty e-mails from the labels threatening us to – you know, that they were going to yank the license.”

Email Evidence

The case concerns iPods that were brought between 2006 to 2009, and the consumers’ lawyers contend the record companies had sought the ability for songs to be played on and from different systems – not just Apple devices.

Apple said “no, take a hike,” Patrick Coughlin, a lawyer for the consumers, reportedly told jurors this week.

And internal emails between Jobs and other senior Apple executives have been used in a bid to depict the late CEO as the mastermind behind a push to thwart competitors.

An email sent by Steve Jobs in 2005 after he discovered that a rival company was about to introduce a program (Harmony) that would let music fans buys songs anywhere and play them on iPods.

“We may need to change things here,” the email read. And Jobs also reportedly helped draft a press release that accused RealNetworks of using “the tactics and ethics of a hacker”, regarding Harmony.

Meanwhile, in an earlier email from 2003 that was sent to other Apple executives, Steve Jobs expressed concern about Musicmatch, a software company, opening its own music store.

“We need to make sure that when Music Match launches their download music store they cannot use iPod,” he wrote. “Is this going to be an issue?”

Apple, meanwhile, has argued that there are actually no plaintiffs in the trial. The case was originally launched by Marianna Rosen and Melanie (Tucker) Wilson. However, Apple says that new evidence shows that the two women named as plaintiffs may not have purchased iPod models covered by the lawsuit.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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