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EFF Sues Apple Over BluWiki Legal Threats 242

Posted by timothy
from the fight-fight-fight dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed suit against Apple to defend the First Amendment rights of BluWiki, a noncommercial, public Internet 'wiki' site operated by OdioWorks. Last year, BluWiki users began a discussion about making some Apple iPods and iPhones interoperate with software other than Apple's iTunes. Apple lawyers demanded removal of the content (pdf) sending a letter to OdioWorks, alleging that the discussions constituted copyright infringement and a violation of the DMCA's prohibition on circumventing copy protection measures. Fearing legal action by Apple, OdioWorks took down the discussions from the BluWiki site but has now filed a lawsuit to vindicate its right to restore those discussions (pdf) and seeking a declaratory judgment that the discussions do not violate any of the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions, and do not infringe any copyrights owned by Apple. 'I take the free speech rights of BluWiki users seriously,' said Sam Odio, owner of OdioWorks. 'Companies like Apple should not be able to censor online discussions by making baseless legal threats against services like BluWiki that host the discussions.'" Random BedHead Ed adds ZDNet quotes EFF's Fred von Lohmann, who says that this is an issue of censorship. 'Wikis and other community sites are home to many vibrant discussions among hobbyists and tinkerers. It's legal to engage in reverse engineering in order to create a competing product, it's legal to talk about reverse engineering, and it's legal for a public wiki to host those discussions.'"
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EFF Sues Apple Over BluWiki Legal Threats

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  • First Amendment (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NOSPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:37AM (#27745473)

    Fearing legal action by Apple, OdioWorks took down the discussions from the BluWiki site

    This is what you get when lawyers are too expensive. Censorship.

    • Re:First Amendment (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:56AM (#27745727)

      That's what you get when you create laws that make information illegal. Censorship is nothing but just that: Outlawing certain information, or the spreading thereof.

      • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NOSPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @11:03AM (#27745819)

        Censorship is nothing but just that: Outlawing certain information, or the spreading thereof.

        The Thought Police has noted your contribution. Thank you for your input, citizen.

        P.S. You have three minutes. I suggest you start running.

  • w00t for the EFF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toy G (533867) <toyg@@@libero...it> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:39AM (#27745505) Homepage Journal

    They keep doing very useful (and thankless) work.

  • A thought, if Apple is claiming copyright juristiction on the conversation, would that not mean that Apple was claiming that it had written said conversations, in whole or part, and by which, by extention, are encouraging people to do the activities therein? Could make some interesting arguements in the courtroom. IANAL but from my viewpoint, Apple does not have much of a legal leg to stand on here.

    • by MistaE (776169) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:52AM (#27745679) Homepage
      I highly doubt Apple is making that kind of Copyright claim. Most likely, they're attempting to claim copyright in any software or hardware code that was mentioned in these discussions. Considering the whole issue is about figuring out a way to reengineer the iPod and such to work with non-iTunes programs, they've most likely been having a discussion on the signals that the iPod sends to iTunes and to figure out a method of interpreting them.

      That's what they mean by a copyright claim.
    • by furby076 (1461805) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:56AM (#27745743) Homepage
      It doesn't matter that talking about a product is not a violation of copyright law or DMCA law. Apple has big lawyers and a non-profit can't compete with that. What they did was comply with the lawyers demands, and then hire a lawyer (probably on commission) and are going to sue. If they win the suit they get to restore their information, and probably some compensation. If they lose they are at the same point (minus some time/effort) as they are now.

      It's a shame that someone can sue someone else and ruin that person just on legal fee's. I am pretty sure the gov't does not provide free council to people in civil suits. It's a major flaw in our countries legal system.
    • by mea37 (1201159) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:06PM (#27747517)

      My understanding is that they aren't claiming "copyright infringement", but rather DMCA anti-circumvention clause violations.

      The anti-circumvention clause is the biggest problem with the DMCA. Issues of copyright term, severity of damages, etc. are all significant, but at least they make some kind of sense on the conceptual map of copyright law. Anti-circumvention says: you can't have, make, try to make, describe how to make, etc. anything for the purpose of breaking a copyright protection.

      What's a copyright protection? Well, that's open to interpretation. How do we decide if something's purpose is to break a copyright protection? Also open to interpretation.

      Apple seems to be saying that if you reverse-engineer their system to interoperate with other software, you can use that to violate someone's copyright - and that defeating some copyright protection in their system is the primary purpose for which you'd do it.

  • On some level, this (and other things that have been made by the courts and through law, like the Doctrine of First Sale) is how society as a whole negotiates with vendors - when they offer things that are enough against the interests of society, we effectively band together and tell them that their terms are unacceptable and they'll either modify them or they won't be sold here.

  • !streissandeffect (Score:4, Informative)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:44AM (#27745577)
    This is a story regarding the countersuit to an Apple DMCA takedown notice. The EFF want publicity for this case.

    No Streissand Effect here, folks.
    • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:48AM (#27745631)

      This is a story regarding the countersuit to an Apple DMCA takedown notice. The EFF want publicity for this case.

      The streisand effect would relate to apple's attempt to supress a few people talking about this on some forum and to shut the forum down, and now a lot more people are aware of the topic, the forum, and are talking about it.

    • Re:!streissandeffect (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mr_mischief (456295) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:53AM (#27745693) Journal

      I think you're analyzing the Streisand effect from the opposite direction of those tagging the story that way.

      Apple didn't want a few hobbyists on OdioWorks talking about making the iPod work with software other than iTunes. Now, because they tried to stifle that publicity, there are these suits. Now Apple will have a bunch of people aware that there's a group wanting to make iPods interoperable with other software.

      It's Apple getting more publicity because they didn't want it that earned the story the tag. You're right that the EFF wants to raise awareness of issues like this, though.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Apple didn't want a few hobbyists on OdioWorks talking about making the iPod work with software other than iTunes. Now, because they tried to stifle that publicity, there are these suits. Now Apple will have a bunch of people aware that there's a group wanting to make iPods interoperable with other software.

        It's Apple getting more publicity because they didn't want it that earned the story the tag. You're right that the EFF wants to raise awareness of issues like this, though.

        Though, it does make one wonder

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by ivucica (1001089)

          Who on the other platforms WANTS zunes to work on non-Windows platforms? ;)

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by mitherin (988545)

            Who on the other platforms WANTS zunes to work on non-Windows platforms? ;)

            me? and several others here at MST

          • by Xtifr (1323)

            I want all portable media devices to work on other platforms. I may have no interest in buying an ipod or zune, but that doesn't mean that someone like my cousin, who was given was as a present, should have to suffer.

        • Yes, but Apple make a lot more profit off of you if after buying your iPod you go to iTunes and buy a bunch of songs for it. I know using iTunes doesn't automatically mean you will buy any songs from Apple, as you can rip your own CDs using it, but it does increase the chance greatly. If you don't use iTunes, you aren't buying any songs from Apple.

          I have never used iTunes myself, and not coincidentally, have never purchased any songs from Apple.
    • Of course there is a Streissand Effect. Apple tried to quash discussion about making their hardware to "talk" to other software (in order to minimize visibility), got countersued and now a lot more people than the original members of the discussion are aware of such subject. That is the very definition of Streisand Effect [wikipedia.org].
    • For those who don't know and are too lazy to google it (if there are any out there matching that discription) the Streissand effect could also reasonably be called the "don't look over there!" effect. Imagine someone points and says, "Don't look over there!" What are you going to do? You're going to look where they're pointing.

      So the Streissand Effect is when someone tries to censor material from the Internet, and it has the exact opposite effect of publicizing the availability of that information. It'

  • What's the Story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mkiwi (585287) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:49AM (#27745645)

    I'd like to hear both sides of the story. As important as the EFF is, they tend to ignore anything that doesn't fit with their message, especially when it comes to legal proceedings.

    Since Apple is Apple, I doubt we will hear much from them. But I would like to point out that there is a strong bias on the part of the EFF to selectively use facts for propaganda.

    See: http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/04/14/193217 [slashdot.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by David Gerard (12369)
      Indeed. Facts, pfeh! You can use "facts" to prove anything that's remotely true.
      • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

        Actually, by carefully choosing the facts, one can prove just about anything. It is referred to as "lying by omission" in some quarters and "cherry picking" in others.

        It is how many religions work, especially various forms of christianity.

        • It is how many religions work, especially various forms of christianity.

          Well, now you are just cherry picking religions that practice this.

          • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

            No, because I did say many religions. I just singled them out because they are so blatant about it.

    • by Anita Coney (648748) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:55AM (#27745713) Homepage

      You accuse the EFF as having a "strong bias... to selectively use facts for propaganda." You provide a link. But that link does not support your accusation at all. Would you like to clarify? Thanks!

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        They "forget" to mention what the student is actually charged with and make it sound like he's a poor innocent Linux user.
        • The link you provided, your evidence for your accusation against the EFF, makes no mention that the EFF forgot anything It appears that it is your personal opinion that the EFF forgot something and it further appears that you have have no objective evidence to support your personal opinion.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by SLi (132609)

        While I'm a donating EFF member, that reflects my experience with their press releases. Often reading the legal papers themselves (which admittedly are linked from EFF press releases) gives a bit different picture of the situation.

        I don't remember many examples now, but one recent one I do. The case where a university student got his computer hardware confiscated allegedly for sending mail to a university mailing list, alleging that his (ex-?)roommate is gay, and posting link to a profile he had allegedly m

    • Yes, I would also like to hear the "other" side. Was the takedown notice just because of an alleged DMCA infringment? Or did they discuss something else?

      But if we don't hear anything from Apple, what should we do? Ignore it because, hey, we couldn't hear both sides so we shouldn't cast a verdict? If our judical system worked that way, a lot of people would never be tried and judged. And while I consider ex parte verdicts horrible, NO verdict would often be worse.

      • Re:What's the Story (Score:5, Informative)

        by Chyeld (713439) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .dleyhc.> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @11:29AM (#27746213)

        I believe this was the project where they were attempting to brute force the key that encrypted the song database on the newer iPhone/Touch firmwares. They did this by requesting everyone upload their own copy of the database off their device.

        The purpose in doing this was to enable third party programs to actually sync with the device, since currently the only way to do so is through iTunes (even the third party programs that do so now rely on being able to hook into it's dlls).

        Apple hit them with a C&D letter indicating that the project was a viloation of the DMCA, specificly an attempt to bypass DRM.

        The question will be, do the courts agree with Apple?

    • by Cajun Hell (725246) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @11:37AM (#27746327) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, that's my complaint about the EFF too. They're so biased against abusing law to fuck innocent people over. Why don't they ever advocate the other side, explaining that freedom is a bad thing and we need to pass more laws for the purpose of harming the public? I'm getting sick and tired of these people always being so consistently anti-evil. EFF is so predictably transparent.
  • by spyrochaete (707033) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @11:12AM (#27745959) Homepage Journal

    If you want flexibility and choice then why use an iPod? I respect the BluWiki guys for standing up to Apple, but seriously, it's so much easier to take the path of least resistance and use an MP3 player that supports Explorer or Finder or command line mounting. Then you can use your player as a storage device as well. iPod and Zune are equally miserable in this regard.

    My player of choice is the Creative Zen. It comes with proprietary software, but it's optional so you can use Explorer if you prefer. Only drawback is that they only come in solid-state flavours, no HDD, so the max capacity is 32GB (in case you only sit at a computer once every 3 months to add new music).

    • by idontgno (624372) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @12:10PM (#27746757) Journal

      Well, there are many perspectives on this. Yours advocates what I've always called "pragmatic", which boils down to (using your words) "path of least resistance" while accomplishing the desired affect. In many arenas, I'm like that too.

      Others want the iPod (why? I dunno. It's spiffy and has neato features, and don't underestimate the power of "cool" and technofetishism.) But they don't want to be locked into iTunes. So, they find ways to overcome Apple's artificial monopoly-enforcement tool. I admire the tenacity, and wish them the best.

      Me? I don't buy Apple stuff, not merely to avoid their lock-in traps, but as an actual statement. They get no money from me as long as they continue to use the courts and their own internal censorship systems (thread suppression on Apple fora) as their way of enforcing their vision of the world on their customers. Respect first sale and the customer's inherent right of use, and we can do business, Apple.

      But that's just me.

      Besides, I'm so old and crusty that I don't even bother with those new-fangled digital audio doohickeys. Now get offa my lawn!

      • by spyrochaete (707033) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @12:56PM (#27747381) Homepage Journal

        Oh, I hate Apple too due to their legal threats and libellous advertising. It just so happens I had a rational argument against them this time, plus they're not the only offenders when it comes to proprietary lock-in. I'm also happy to see the EFF probing the DMCA from every angle to find the loopholes or dissolve it outright. However, like my subject says, if you buy a tool because of what it might be some day then you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

        Apple - Think Different (and we'll sue you)

      • Others want the iPod (why? I dunno. It's spiffy and has neato features, and don't underestimate the power of "cool" and technofetishism.)

        Honestly, couldn't care about what is cool or not. I bought a 160GB ipod classic since it was the only device on the market that had the capacity I needed. Unfortunately, it was also one of the first ipods with the new encrypted firmware.

        The quality is excellent... they do take quite a beating from me. I've used my both my 160GB classic and 8 GB nano while skiing and mountainbiking, if that's any indication.

        It's a shame too... if only Apple weren't so monopolistic about its products. They make MS look

    • I've got a Zen .... with a HDD? ...and it uses a proprietary interface ... but this is supported in Linux ...

  • by MacColossus (932054) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @11:18AM (#27746045) Journal
    Apple relied on reverse engineering especially in it's early days back when Woz was doing the Apple I and II. Steve Jobs sold Blue Box phone freak kits made by Woz that allowed you to bypass phone charges to there college peers. They need to lighten up.
    • Realize that was poorly worded. I meant to say they sold the kits to peers. I doubt if it was used to bypass charges talking amongst themselves. :-)
    • > They need to lighten up.

      You expect Steve Jobs to lighten up?

  • by russotto (537200) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @12:08PM (#27746731) Journal

    The courts have an easy way out of this one. They'll declare there's no "case or controversy" and dismiss the complaint, just like they did when the RIAA threatned Dr. Felten over releasing watermarking information.

    The only way to get heard in court when someone sends you a C&D is to fail to desist, and let them sue you. Of course, given the other side has far more resources, that's kind of like taking up Dirty Harry on his "Do you feel lucky, punk?" challenge.

    • Most of the cost of such lawsuits is lawyer's fees. Apple's lawyers charge on the order of $500/hour. The EFF's lawyers charge nothing.

  • I'll be a lot more impressed and enthused when the DMCA is simply removed, repealed, revoke or otherwise trashed from U.S. law books. It's bad law designed to enable a wide variety of people to do things copyright was never intended to do.

    If frequent abuse of law isn't reason enough for its repeal, I can't imagine what is.

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