Judge denies request to release Steve Jobs trial video

A California judge has denied a request by media companies to release a videotaped deposition of Apple’s Steve Jobs, taken six months before his death in 2011.

Jobs’s taped deposition was used in a class-action lawsuit, which had been in court for a decade, that argued Apple abused its monopoly power in the music industry. Apple won the suit earlier this week, and won’t have to pay damages in the antitrust trial.

The request to make the tape public was filed by the Associated Press, Bloomberg, and CNN.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers found that because the video was used in lieu of live testimony, it should be considered as such — cameras are prohibited in federal district courtrooms, and any other live testimony wouldn’t have been taped. The transcript of the video, and not the tape itself, will serve as the official court record, according to the decision.

“As is typical of all live testimony, it is properly made available to the public through its initial courtroom presentation, and subsequently, via the official court transcript,” the judge ruled.

The court ruling states that if video depositions were routinely released, that may discourage future witnesses from participating in taped depositions, out of concern they may be broadcast publicly someday.

The decision also noted that the courtroom wasn’t sealed for any part of the trial, making all testimony accessible to the public. To accommodate the press, the court ordered extra copies of exhibits in the trial, and ensured the public had advance notice of the Jobs deposition.

Parts of the video were played in court for the public and media, and the transcript of the deposition was made public for the first time earlier this month.

During the deposition, the attorney representing iPod owners asked Jobs questions about Apple’s attempt in 2004 to limit the iPod’s compatibility with rival music stores.

At the time, Jobs was on medical leave, appeared very thin and his voice was raspy, but seemed mentally sharp in the video, which CNN saw in the courtroom.

He was also defensive, evasive and opaque. Asked about events that took place seven years earlier, he said “I don’t remember,” “I don’t know” or “I don’t recall” 74 times during the two-hour session — including when he was asked if he knew what the lawsuit was about, according to the transcript.

In the iPod’s early days, Apple went to great lengths to ensure the iPods could only play music burned from CDs or purchased on iTunes. Music sold on iTunes had a special Digital Rights Management encryption that wasn’t compatible with other MP3 players.

Throughout the deposition, Jobs portrayed Apple as a company that was at the mercy of the record labels. He said Apple was “very scared” of being in noncompliance with the labels’ terms, which stipulated that iTunes music needed DRM protections.

None of the major labels ever canceled their contracts with iTunes. In fact, Apple has been widely regarded as having the upper hand in its negotiations with the record labels, and Jobs has been accused of strong-arm tactics when setting iTunes’ music prices.

Towards the end of the deposition, the attorney asked Jobs whether Apple’s response to Harmony was “strong and vehement.”

“They don’t sound too angry to me when I read them,” Jobs answered. “A strong response from Apple would be a lawsuit.”

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