Apple Accused of Stifling Speech About the iPod, iPhone
(WIRED) Apple’s demands to control completely the iPhone and iPod – and free speech about them — was met with legal resistance Monday when the Cupertino electronics concern was hit by a lawsuit challenging that presumption.
The San Francisco federal court case concerns a wiki that last year removed a thread discussing integrating non-Apple software into the closely guarded iPhone and iPod. Virginia-based OdioWorks, the operator of the non-commercial wiki –BluWiki, removed the string amid threats of being sued by one of the world’s richest companies.
To OdioWorks’ rescue Monday were two San Francisco-based law firms, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Keker & Van Nest. Apple, in itsNovember takedown notice to BluWiki, said the wiki’s discussions amounted to copyright infringement and violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act because the threat discussed methods to circumvent encryption technology.
Apple’s position should come as no surprise as it protects its virtual monopoly in the digital music player space, while sales of the popular iPhone are skyrocketing despite worldwide economic tumult. The company also claims jailbreaking and unlocking the iPhone is illegal – positions the U.S. Copyright Office is now mulling.
The deleted BluWiki threads discussed reverse engineering a cheksum hash connected to the iTunesDB file — which is an operating system index to keep track of what music is on an Apple device. Cracking the checksum enables iPods and iPhones to sinc with other desktop management tools like gtkpod, Winamp or Songbird, the EFF says.
The lawsuit (.pdf) against Apple claims no law was broken by BluWiki because the writers of the wiki threads “had apparently not yet succeeded in their reverse engineering efforts and were simply discussing Apple’s code obfuscation techniques,” writes Fred von Lohmann, an EFF attorney. “If Apple is suggesting that the DMCA reaches people merely talking about technical protection measures, then they’ve got a serious First Amendment problem.”
What’s more, von Lohmann points out in a blog post, “the iTunesDB file on an iPod is the result of the individual choices each iPod owner makes in deciding what music and other media to put on her iPod. In other words, the iTunesDB file is to iTunes as this blog post is to Safari – when I use Safari to produce a new work, I own the copyright in the resulting file, not Apple.”
Apple, however, claims the EFF is wrong (.pdf) and that the BluWiki threatens its Fairplay copyprotection scheme.