Book of Jobs
been a really good week to be Steve Jobs.
First, the French National Assembly backed off proposed legislation
that would have required Apple·s iTunes songs and iPods
to be interoperable with other manufacturers· MP3 players
and other distributors· song-file formats. The abandoned
legislation, described in some detail here last month, would
have been groundbreaking and generally good for consumers
and the forward march of digital music. But Jobs declared
the laws ·state-sponsored theft· and threatened
to pull iTunes out of France, and the French did what they
do best. They surrendered!
Apple announced that it had re-upped it·s 99-cents-per-song
pricing scheme with all of its music suppliers for the
foreseeable future. This issue, described in some detail here
two months ago, pitted all the major labels in a steel-cage
death match with Steve Jobs. Warner·s CEO Edgar Bronfman,
particularly, took some pretty personal shots at Jobs, and
all of the labels were maneuvering to move the digital price-point
up. And who can blame them? The labels were used to shaking
people down for $10 to $15 to buy a CD with their favorite
song on it. Now people can get the song for 99 cents. In any
event, despite the simple fact that all songs are not worth
99 cents, and that a uniform pricing scheme defies even the
most basic logic, Jobs won. The press releases went out, and
calls to the labels went unreturned. Clearly, Jobs had landed
some solid pimp-slaps behind closed doors.
days later, a British judge ruled that Apple·s iTunes
store did not violate the terms of a 1991 agreement Apple
had made with the Beatles· Apple Corps, Ltd. to stay
out of the music business. The lawsuit, discussed here two
weeks ago, centered on whether selling digital files would
be characterized as the sale of a physical product. In a crisp,
34-page decision (which I found posted at www.thinksecret.com),
the judge made, essentially, a series of judgment calls that
reasonable consumers would not think that Apple was a record
company, and that Apple·s use of its Apple logo in
conjunction with the iTunes store was not unfair and didn·t
·cross the line· with regard to the 1991 agreement.
But don·t hang out at the iTunes store waiting for
Beatles songs to finally show up there anytime soon·this
one is probably far from over. Apple Corps said it·s
going to appeal the ruling, and the coin-toss-like decision
could very easily flip the other way. And I don·t know
squat about the British judicial system, but I read that after
a determination by an appellate court the case could wind
up before the House of Lords. I didn·t think those
guys did anything but wear powdered wigs and get caught in
sex scandals, but there you go.
as these three things may be, they pale in the shadow of the
news that Disney bought up Job·s Pixar Animation company,
the creators of mega-cartoon franchises like Toy Story, Monsters,
Inc., and Finding Nemo. Even though the deal is Disney-buys-Pixar,
after the dust settles, Steve Jobs will be the largest single
shareholder of Disney stock, with something like seven percent
of the stock.
about that for a second. We·re talking freakin·
Disney here! While Jobs is busy downplaying the significance
of the deal and his position in the Evil Mouse Empire, Mac-heads
are starting to freak out that Jobs will be directing most
of his energies toward Disney instead of Apple. Film industry
folks think that Jobs won·t be able to help himself,
and will soon simply take Disney over.
running Disney may seem far afield from selling maverick computers
that nerdy people cherish with a religious fervor, once you
add iTunes to the mix, you can see Jobs walking a straight
line into the future. The new-generation iPods have video
screens and massive hard drives to handle video content. Disney·s
television network ABC has been way out front on making its
TV shows available for viewing over the Internet, and the
entire movie industry has been rushing to incorporate and
harness the Internet-based delivery of films, to avoid the
kind of massive loss of control that the music industry allowed
to happened with the peer-to-peer networks.
Steve Jobs, walking out of numerous burning houses simultaneously
with nary a scratch, and suddenly finding himself with the
capacity to create content, control its delivery, and then
sell you the gizmos you·ll watch and listen to it all
on. Dazzling, brilliant, and very, very scary.
Rapp is an intellectual-property lawyer with offices in Albany
and Housatonic, Mass. He teaches art-and-entertainment law
at Albany Law School, and regularly appears as part of the
Copyright Forum on WAMC-FM·s Vox Pop program.
Contact info can be found at www.paulrapp.com.