Several musicians who are involved in a class action lawsuit with Universal Music Group are demanding to see sensitive documents from a previous case that involved Apple. The documents include trial exhibits, expert reports, and a deposition from Steve Jobs that reportedly caused one judge to order almost everyone out of the courtroom.
Apple sees the material as “highly confidential” and strongly objects to handing it over. But why is the company trying so hard to keep this mysterious document under wraps?
F.B.T. Productions, which is representing a group of musicians that includes Rob Zombies and the estate of Rick James, amongst other, is set to do battle with UMG over what money is owed from the sale of digital music.
A very similar case against Aftermath Records — a division of UMG — recently saw the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rule in favor of F.B.T., who asserted that a contract between record labels and artists should be read as treating digital music as “licenses” rather than “sales.”
The Hollywood Reporter reports that because of F.B.T.’s success in that trial, plaintiff’s want to see the documents that were produced in that case for their own litigation against UMG.
However, Apple doesn’t want to play ball. It is determined not to hand over those documents, and it has filed an objection to a motion to modify a protective order.
On the eve of the F.B.T. case, almost all documents in the case have gone into lockdown. Ever since THR published a leaked audit that highlighted the millions of dollars at stake, the parties have become super-protective of evidence in the dispute, and the judge has been willing to accommodate the immense secrecy.
It’s unclear why Apple is being so protective over these documents, but the company maintains that its relationships with UMG and other record labels are “highly confidential and proprietary trade secrets.”
The Cupertino company highlights that the documents are so secretive that when the depositions were taken, many individuals, including UMG employees, were asked to leave the courtroom, while transcripts from the trial were filed under seal.
Apple argues that the plaintiffs haven’t explained why the documents are relevant, and says that if the documents are released, the company will experience “competitive harm.”