Shizuo Kambayashia/AP/File
A decade-old lawsuit alleging that Apple monopolized online music sales in the early days of the iTunes Store will go to trial this week. Here, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs speaks during a launch event for the iTunes service in 2005.

Apple on trial: Decade-old iTunes suit will be heard in court

A suit against Apple, originally brought in 2005, will finally be heard in a California district court this week. Steve Jobs will appear in a video deposition in the trial, which will focus on Apple's early dominance in the online music marketplace.

It’s been years since Apple started offering DRM-free music on the iTunes Store, allowing customers to play downloaded songs on whatever applications and devices they choose. But prior to 2009, music downloaded from iTunes could only be played in Apple's iTunes application, or on an iPod or iPhone. Furthermore, there was a time when iPods could not play songs downloaded from places other than the iTunes store.

Several Californians started a class-action lawsuit accusing Apple of monopolizing online music -- and after nearly a decade of filings and delays, the suit is heading to trial this week.

The suit is making news because of the role Steve Jobs, Apple’s late co-founder, will play in the trial. The plaintiffs hope to show that Mr. Jobs, for all his genius, was not above blocking competitors and bullying other companies in order to make the iTunes Store the biggest source for online music.

For example, Brian X. Chen reports in The New York Times that, in 2003, Jobs had his eye on rival service MusicMatch, writing an e-mail to Apple executives that read in part, “We need to make sure that when Music Match launches their download music store they cannot use iPod. Is this going to be an issue?”

Jobs’ e-mails will play a big role in the trial. He was infamous for threatening to sue opponents, and for promising huge financial incentives for those who agreed to partner with Apple. The founder himself will reportedly appear in a video deposition, recorded before his death in 2011, in which he discusses Apple’s approach to the iTunes Store and what he saw as the company’s role in the online music marketplace.

The plaintiffs are asking for $350 million from Apple for its alleged anticompetitive behavior. That amount would be a drop in the bucket for the tech giant, which made a profit of $8.5 billion last quarter, but all the same Apple lawyers have been fighting the suit for years.

The US District Court for the Northern District of California has refused to throw out the case, but agreed to dismiss some of the original claims in the suit. The complaint, made in 2005, shows just how far the online music marketplace has come in the past decade. It mentions once-ascendant competitors such as Napster, Music Rebellion, and Audio Lunchbox; frets about the now-bankrupt Tower Records; and references music players from companies such as Epson and Gateway.

The case will begin on Tuesday, and will be heard by District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Apple on trial: Decade-old iTunes suit will be heard in court
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today