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Apple sued for squelching wiki chat

Apr 28, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against Apple to defend the First Amendment rights of a noncommercial online forum. The suit comes in response to pressure from Apple lawyers that forced “BluWiki” to remove discussions of how to make third-party media management software work with the iPhone and iPod.

The discussions were said to have occurred late last year on the iPodhash forums on Bluewiki. The iPodhash project participants were discussing how hobbyists might enable iPods and iPhones to work with desktop media management software other than Apple's own iTunes, said the EFF.

According to documents filed with the court by the EFF, the discussions revolved around the structure of the “iTunesDB” file, a database used by iPod and iPhone devices to let iTunes know what media they hold. Changes to iTunesDB have reportedly made the devices incapable of working with competing media management software, such as the freeware WinAmp and the open source, Linux-compatible Songbird. This is a particular problem for Linux users, since Apple has yet to do a Linux port of iTunes.

Talk about iTunes, go directly to jail?

Apple lawyers alleged that the iPodhash discussions constituted copyright infringement and a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA's) prohibition on circumventing copy protection measures. OdioWorks, which runs BlueWiki, complied with Apple's demand to remove the discussions, but is now hoping to reinstate the forum on the basis of claims to free speech, says the EFF.

The EFF and San Francisco law firm of Keker & Van Nest filed the lawsuit on behalf of OdioWorks in federal court in San Francisco, says the EFF. The suit seeks a declaratory judgment that the discussions do not violate the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions, and that they do not infringe Apple copyrights.

Stated Sam Odio, owner of OdioWorks, “I take the free speech rights of BluWiki users seriously. Companies like Apple should not be able to censor online discussions by making baseless legal threats against services like BluWiki that host the discussions.”

Stated EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann, “Apple's legal threats against BluWiki are about censorship, not about protecting their legitimate copyright interests. 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.”

Availability

More information on the case may be found here, and the EFF complaint on behalf of OdioWorks may be found here.


 
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