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Summary:

As a company, Apple has a tendency to bully small fish. While it seems harsh at times, it might also be one of the reasons Apple has been so successful in the highly competitive computer and media player field, since they maintain firm control of their […]

apple3As a company, Apple has a tendency to bully small fish. While it seems harsh at times, it might also be one of the reasons Apple has been so successful in the highly competitive computer and media player field, since they maintain firm control of their corporate and product images by maintaining strict control of how their products are used and portrayed. So we’re used to stories about them threatening a blog or web site if they don’t remove some content. What we’re not so used to are stories about those same sites offering some sort of resistance instead of just rolling over and removing the offending content.

The site in question is BluWiki, which originally complied with Apple’s takedown request by removing the offending string, which talked about using iPhone/iPod hardware with non-Apple software alternatives to iTunes. BluWiki has now teamed up with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (see their official story) and law firm Keker & Van Nest to fight the Cupertino giant over the November takedown notice. They’re suing Apple, claiming that it’s violating the first amendment by blocking people from “discussing Apple’s code obfuscations techniques,” as EFF lawyer Fred von Lohmann put it.

Considering BluWiki originally complied with Apple’s request, and are bringing suit some six months later with the backing of heavyweights like the EFF, this is probably more about taking a political stand against Apple’s aggressive muzzle tactics in general than about BluWiki’s specific instance. Regardless of the reason behind the suit, it could have significant ramifications for Apple product owners, since it will ultimately decide exactly what it is you’re buying when you purchase a piece of Apple hardware.

I’m a little torn here, since I appreciate that part of the reason Apple products work so well and so consistently is that Apple fights to maintain its vice-like grip. On the other hand, I’d love to see great apps like Songbird get some hardware support love, and it’s hard not to side with the little guy. Maybe some kind of middle ground can be reached? Here’s hoping.

  1. BluWiki may just be showing some tactical good sense in not defying Apple’s lawyers while they sue. “Publish and be damned” may sound macho, but if you lose, you can be damned with punitive damages. This way, a loss means, at worst, that they pay Apple’s legal fees and, given the relative size of the two, a court may not call for that. On the other hand, if they win, they could win big: legal fees and damage for them and a ‘stop harassing them’ order from the court to Apple. Lawyers don’t like to lose, particularly if the lawsuit is high profile. A defeat could make Apple less likely to threaten others in the future.

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  2. This is a really poor article.

    First, Apple *doesn’t* actually have a history of “threatening a blog or web site if they don’t remove some content” and they *don’t* regularly threaten these people with court cases either. If the author was older than fifteen or so and had been covering tech news for longer than just this year he would know that.

    Secondly, the argument is *not* about “… using iPhone/iPod hardware with non-Apple software alternatives to iTunes…”, it’s about the site in question hosting discussions of how to circumvent the DRM in the database. It’s totally valid to use a DCMA takedown order for that. This is what the whole statute was designed for whether you agree with the statute or not (I don’t actually).

    You are creating the impression here that Apple is the “bad guy,” that they are used to “bullying” small fry, and that this one noble young company has “stood up for freedom” or some such bull crap as that.

    NONE of this is true. This is 100% spin by someone who reads too much of teh “web news” and has no experience, no connections and no actual information on which to base their “stories.”

    How many crappy, misleading, poorly researched and totally made up stories does this author have to publish on this site before the corporate masters see what a complete waste of space his writing is? This is embarassing, re-hashed junk that offers no insight at all.

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  3. Christina Viering Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    Good points!

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  4. Looking at what the Microsoft & Linux communities have to put up with, I’d say that we’ve got it pretty good. Top notch hardware, top notch software. If enough of you shit were you eat, you just might ruin it for all of us. Where do we go after Apple?

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  5. The whole argument over DRM is completely moot since Apple’s AAC DRM system has been already been broken. The only reason the iTunesDB protections exist is to keep users of non-Apple software from being able to use their hardware. Unfortunately for zealots like Gazoobee and the rest of you, reverse engineering hardware for the purposes of interoperability is completely protected behavior under the DMCA, so Apple will in all likelyhood lose this case, as they deserve.

    What I find most sad about this is the degree to which people are defending the company. Had this situation occurred 10 years ago and Microsoft was threatening Apple developers for, say, reverse engineering their SMB protocol so that Mac’s could access Windows file shares, Apple users would have been up in arms with their pitchforks. Now that it is Apple acting monopolistic, it’s all ok apparently.

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  6. “…it’s about the site in question hosting discussions of how to circumvent the DRM in the database.”

    Maybe I don’t agree with the statue then either: does the CIA sue AT&T when spies use the telephone to conduct illegal activity? Neither should the wiki site be held responsible for what members choose to post. Dangerous precedent.

    I love Apple, but I love free speech more. Gooooooo Freddie!

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  7. [...] down the pages and sought legal assistance. The Electronic Frontier Foundation took the case and Odioworks v. Apple was [...]

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