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Steve Jobs Required to Provide Deposition in 2005 iTunes Antitrust Case

Bloomberg reports that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been instructed to provide testimony in the form of a deposition regarding an ongoing antitrust case targeting Apple's FairPlay digital rights management (DRM) technology. The deposition, not to exceed two hours, will cover software changes Apple made in 2004 to prevent digital music files from RealNetworks from playing on the iPod.

"The court finds that Jobs has unique, non-repetitive, firsthand knowledge about the issues at the center of the dispute over RealNetworks software," Lloyd wrote.

The class-action suit was filed in January 2005 by a customer complaining about the exclusive nature of Apple's digital music offerings encoded with FairPlay, preventing users from playing music purchased from the iTunes Store on other companies' music players and other music stores' digital offerings from being played on iPods. In particular, Apple's efforts to thwart RealNetworks' reverse engineering of FairPlay with its own "Harmony" technology served as the impetus for the lawsuit.

RealNetworks, a Seattle-based competitor in the digital- music market, announced July 24, 2004, that it would sell music from its online store that could be played on iPods on a technology it called Harmony. Just five days later, Apple announced software updates to its iPod FairPlay software that would render RealNetworks' Harmony product again inoperable on iPods, according to Lloyds order.

By October of that year, when users were forced to update their iTunes applications and iPods, the digital-music files from RealNetworks' online store were no longer interoperable with Apples iPods, Lloyd wrote.

Apple of course no longer sells DRM-encoded music through the iTunes Store, but the lawsuit argues that Apple sought to build monopolies in the digital music and portable music player markets by integrating its products and services while preventing interoperability with competitors' products.