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Hardware Hacking Media The Courts Apple Build

EFF Sues Apple Over BluWiki Legal Threats 242

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 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <yliruj>> 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.

  • by downix ( 84795 ) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:41AM (#27745535) Homepage

    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.

  • 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:!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 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.
  • Re:Chicken (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @11:07AM (#27745879)

    IANAL, but one thing to consider is that you can't get damages for being sued only for suing. Add in the fact that from what I've read, it is easier to win when you are suing then being sued and things start to make sense. So their strategy appears to be, remove the immediate threat to them at no cost other then a bit of damaged pride then come back with a suite saying you have been infringed by a big mean company. This way they can probably get their legal fees taken care of by Apple, make a chunk of change and be able to restore what they took down.
    Not to mention the good PR. Personally, I think their method is a really good idea.

  • 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).

  • Re:Chicken (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Publikwerks ( 885730 ) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @11:13AM (#27745987)
    Ok, I withdraw my chickenshit comment. This makes sense to me
  • 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.
  • "Because it's there" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ActusReus ( 1162583 ) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @11:23AM (#27746117)

    Why do geeks buy XBoxes and try to turn them into Linux PC's or media devices? Why do people jailbreak smart phones? It's because geeks are geeks, and the challenge is fun. As George Mallory would say, it's because they're THERE.

    Secondly, even on a more practical note, the iPod is just a nice piece of hardware. I've dropped mine a thousand times and abused it repeatedly (err, non-sexually!)... and you just can't break the thing. I simply haven't found that kind of quality in competing devices, and I am certainly NOT an Apple fanboy by any stretch.

    I put the RockBox operating system [rockbox.org] on my iPod (which still leaves you the ability to dual-boot into Apple's OS if you need to)... and now my iPod functions as a typical mass-storage player. I don't need iTunes, can just copy music files on and off like a USB stick, and have support for any format I'd want (e.g. OGG, Flac, etc). Combine that with the sheer quality of the hardware (my iPod has lasted three times longer than any previous player I've had), and I'm a happy geek. If other people want to port other OS's to the device, then that's awesome and more power to them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @11:23AM (#27746119)

    i think the tags for this article say it all:

    eff apple !

  • by dimeglio ( 456244 ) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @11:45AM (#27746435)

    iTunes is great but they should not have monopoly. I think one can almost argue that they have a monopoly. Especially when an artist with not much money wants to promote their own work. They'll be more successfull advertising that their works are available on "iTunes" than anywhere else.

  • Thank you, Spartacus (Score:4, Interesting)

    by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionary.yahoo@com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @12:05PM (#27746693) Journal

    The Thought Police aren't coming to kill you, they are coming to enslave you. Feel like running now? No? Did I mention they are IMAGINARY? Now what are you going to do? How do you fight that which is only in your mind?

    Your seriousness has killed the funny. You could have at least put it in terms of a pithy quote about liberty, lions and jackals, or free beer.

  • Re:What's the Story (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @12:13PM (#27746815)

    The song database does not belong to Apple. If you were going to argue that the user's list of songs belonged to anyone (e.g. using EU database copyright, which would be a stretch) then it plainly belongs to the user. I don't see that Apple have a case.

  • 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.

  • Re:!streissandeffect (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mitherin ( 988545 ) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:08PM (#27747537)

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

    me? and several others here at MST

  • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:54PM (#27748133)

    Did I mention they are IMAGINARY?

    It may be irrational to believe they are real, but he expresses what he feels is a transcendental truth.

  • by Mister Whirly ( 964219 ) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:02PM (#27749161) Homepage
    Believe me, their reasoning was profit. One of their number crunchers indicated that their data says that the glossy screen will make them more money. (Cheaper manufacturing, initial test show people like it better, or even "Sure it is cheaper to make, but the average customer can't tell the difference", or what have you.) Their data may be in error, but I'm sure it was presented to their marketing folks as a big "plus" and not a huge "minus". Sometimes, *gasp* even Apple gets it wrong in predicting what people really want.

    Or they want you to buy one of their big fancy displays by purposely making their built-in displays crap.

    P.S. I know exactly what you mean though. My girlfriend does graphic design and she hates the new displays as well. Luckily she has one of the older ones that don't suck.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!