Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs will be a key part of a case against the company that goes to trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California starting today.
Jobs, who died in October 2011, recorded a video deposition while he was still alive, and lawyers for the plaintiffs plan to include that during their presentation of the case.
The suit focuses on Apple’s FairPlay DRM, which it attached to songs purchased through the iTunes Store until 2009. The suit alleges that Apple engaged in anticompetitive behavior by only allowing iPods to play music purchased from the iTunes Store, or imported from a CD using iTunes.
The DRM, which was required by music labels in order for their music to be sold in an age of piracy fueled by applications like Napster and Kazaa, prevented people from sharing music files purchased from iTunes beyond a handful of computers (unless they burned the tracks to a CD). The suit alleges that Apple used FairPlay to lock users into the iTunes/iPod ecosystem, especially since it wasn’t licensed for use by other device manufacturers.
The case has had a long and tumultuous 10-year journey through the courts to reach this point. It was initially filed in 2005, and has managed to survive numerous dismissal challenges and other legal wrangling to reach this point.
The plaintiffs in the class-action case seek $350 million in damages from Apple. If a jury finds the company guilty, the final reward could be three times that, if Apple engaged in anti-competitive behavior. A loss here isn’t going to be backbreaking for Apple – even if the worst case scenario comes to pass, they’ll be paying out a fraction of their annual profit.
It will probably be years before any resolution is reached in the case. Apple has fiercely defended itself in another antitrust case focused on its behavior around e-book pricing, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason for the company to back down here, either.