News organizations fight to release Steve Jobs deposition video

Apple is battling reporters over sharing unreleased footage of its late CEO shown in antitrust court Friday.

Nick Statt Former Staff Reporter / News
Nick Statt was a staff reporter for CNET News covering Microsoft, gaming, and technology you sometimes wear. He previously wrote for ReadWrite, was a news associate at the social-news app Flipboard, and his work has appeared in Popular Science and Newsweek. When not complaining about Bay Area bagel quality, he can be found spending a questionable amount of time contemplating his relationship with video games.
Nick Statt
3 min read

The late Steve Jobs took the stand through a video monitor in antitrust court in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, giving testimony from deposition taped on April 12, 2011. Courtroom sketch by Vicki Behringer

Some of the last video footage taken of the late Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs shown in antitrust court last week may see the light of day after lawyers representing the Associated Press, Bloomberg and CNN filed a motion with the court to have it released.

"Given the substantial public interest in the rare posthumous appearance of Steve Jobs in this trial, there simply is no interest that justifies restricting the public's access to his video deposition," attorney Thomas Burke, who is representing all three media organizations, wrote in the filing Monday.

The plaintiff's lawyers in the case were asked by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, on Apple's request, to treat the video as "regular testimony," meaning it can be viewed and reported by those attending court but cannot be shown elsewhere. Judge Rogers did not "seal" the evidence, however, leaving open the possibility it may be made available at a later date.

Today's filing follows an official email request made Sunday by Burke, to which Bill Isaacson, Apple's lead attorney, replied Sunday night, "Apple does not consent to your request. We are preparing a substantive response to your points and will get that to you tonight hopefully." No such filing has yet been made on behalf of Apple's request to keep the video restricted to the courtroom.

The media organizations represented by Burke also object to sealing it retroactively, on the grounds that it has already been entered into the public record. The transcript of the video has already been available.

The two-hour video deposition, filmed in April of 2011, six months before Jobs died to complications related to pancreatic cancer, was a key moment in the trial when 30 minutes of it were shown Friday. The testimony from other witnesses may have been more germane to the case, but the never-before-seen video footage of the late executive has grabbed the spotlight and, Burke argues, deserves to be shown to the public because it is "far more compelling and accurate than any transcript could ever be."

Apple declined to comment. Plaintiff's lawyers have previously said it is Apple's decision whether to release the video, though they did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the media's filing.

The case, which began December 2 in Oakland, Calif. and is expected to wrap up this week, traces back to a 2005 claim that Apple harmed consumers by acting anti-competitively against incumbents in the digital music business. Plaintiffs said the goal was to maintain a monopoly on the space and overcharge consumers.

Plaintiffs in the case argued Apple used its digital rights management technology to stifle competition by disallowing competing music stores' songs to work on its iPod music players. That effort kept consumers locked into using iPods, which Apple priced higher than competing MP3 players.

Apple sees its history in the years following 2004 as starkly different. Apple executives like iTunes chief Eddy Cue and marketing head Phil Schiller have taken the stand in court to argue that Apple was fending off hack after hack of the iPod and its iTunes software both to protect its property and to maintain relationships with record companies.

Jobs, in his video testimony, had little to say of the case, acting unconcerned during his testimony and calling much of what happened back then "water under the bridge." He also repeated much of what Apple has argued.

"There are lots of hackers trying to hack into these things so that they can do things that would put us in noncompliance with the contracts we have with the music companies," Jobs said, calling those contracts "pretty much black and white."