Steve Jobs to be deposed in iTunes antitrust suit

A federal judge has cleared the way for Apple’s ailing leader Steve Jobs to be deposed in a class-action lawsuit charging the iPod maker turned iTunes into a digital music monopoly.

US Magistrate Judge Howard Lloyd ruled on Monday that attorneys for the plaintiffs may question Jobs for a limited time of two hours, but only on the topic of an iPod update making RealNetworks digital music inoperable with iPod MP3 players.

The suit charges Apple with creating a monopoly by shackling digital music with FairPlay anti-piracy software that prevented iPods from playing song downloads from anywhere but the firm’s online iTunes shop.

RealNetworks, the company behind the ever popular RealPlayer media player, were amongst the first to introduce audio streaming for the internet back in 1995. Today, RealPlayer stands as one of the most popular media players on the market with portability across a vast spectrum of mobile devices including the iPhone, iPod and Sony PSP. RealNetworks in 2004 released Harmony software crafted to let its music be played on iPods, but Apple quickly released an update that shut out the Seattle-based company’s digital files, accusing  RealNetworks of using “the tactics and ethics of a hacker”.

With Jobs leading the charge, Apple then did away with digital rights management software on iTunes music in 2009.

Jobs, 56, went on medical leave in January for an unspecified illness, but remains involved in running the California company and hosted the unveiling of second-generation iPad tablet computers in San Francisco early this month.

It was not indicated when the deposition might take place. Apple has seen a host of related lawsuits. In 2007, California resident Timothy Smith accused the company of: “violating California antitrust law because iPhone customers are forced to use AT&T, and iPhones that have been modified to work on other networks have been bricked by Apple”. Again in 2007, Apple faced another antitrust patent case in Tucker VS Apple Computer, filed in July in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. The suit alleges that Apple is violated antitrust law because content purchased from iTunes could only be played on the Apple-manufactured iPod and no other device. The suit went on toseek damages for anyone who purchased an iPod or content from iTunes after April 2003. A motion filed by Apple to dismiss the charges was denied.

Apple executives have seen a fair amount of courtroom related drama since then and Steve Jobs, despite his ailments, seems to represent the entirety of Apple as whole – which is somewhat unfair despite Lloyd insistence that Jobs “has unique non-repetitive, firsthand knowledge” relevant to the six-year-old case, according to court documents.



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