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Apple CEO Steve Jobs ordered to speak to lawyers in digital music monopoly lawsuit

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been ordered to answer questions from lawyers representing consumers who, in a class-action lawsuit, are alleging that the tech giant has built a monopoly in the business of digital music downloads.

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Howard Lloyd ruled Jobs will have to face the lawyers for as long as two hours. In his order, Lloyd, who is a judge in San Jose, also denied a motion from Apple asking for a protective order to prevent Jobs from having to speak with the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

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Officials at Apple and the attorneys for the plaintiffs were unavailable for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

In their complaint against Apple, a group of consumers argues that Apple has created a monopoly with iTunes and the iPod music and video players by not allowing certain formats of music to play on iPods and limiting music from iTunes to playing only on iPods as well.

The lawyers are limited to asking Jobs about actions related to Apple’s 2004 move to block songs converted into iPod-friendly formats using RealNetworks’ Harmony software.

“Plaintiffs may depose Jobs for a total of two hours, and the deposition shall be limited to the
topics of (a) the July 26, 2004 RealNetworks Announcement, (b) the July 29, 2004 Apple
announcement in response thereto, and (c) Apple’s software updates in October 2004 that rendered
the RealNetworks’ digital music files once again inoperable with iPods,” Lloyd wrote in his order.

In January, Jobs announced that he was taking an indefinite medical leave, but would remain CEO. Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook has taken over Jobs’ daily responsibilities.

Despite the leave, Jobs has remained involved in major company decisions, Apple has said. And, indeed, Jobs unveiled the iPad 2 tablet on March 2.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Top photo: Apple CEO Steve Jobs at Apple’s media event to introduce the iPad 2 in San Francisco on March 2, 2011. Credit: Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP Photo/Getty Images


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