Did you know that Apple illegally uses digital rights management to maintain a lock-in on their products? Of course you did. Oh, except for that part about it being illegal. Which it’s not. And that part about lock-in. Which it’s not. Why do many of the effect elitist snobs of technology decry Apple’s use of technology to prolong and enhance the company’s products? Jealousy? Fear? Communism?
Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me Less
In a rambling, disjointed, nonsensical diatribe against Apple’s marketing prowess and commercial rights, ArsTechnica’s Jacqui Cheng accuses Apple of abusing the law for its own advantage. For example:
Apple makes great products—you’ll get no argument from us. But Apple also likes keeping tight control over those products, and if anyone outside of Apple’s blessed circle attempts to get in, the company is more than willing to try to use (or abuse) the law to its advantage.
Somehow, Apple’s tight control has, in Cheng’s world, become a bad thing. What Cheng fails to realize is that the reason hundreds of millions of customers like Apple products is because the tight control makes them better than run-of-the-mill (read: less control) products.
That Which Is Mine, Is Mine
Apple’s so-called ‘tight control’ produces products that customers love to use. Is that criminal? According to Cheng, it’s criminal to effete elitist technology pundits who want their cake and the privilege of eating it.
Apple is a company known for many things, but embracing copyright freedoms has not been one of them.
Just what are the copyright freedoms that Apple is not embracing that other companies are? Cheng doesn’t say, but it must be true because that’s what Ars printed. In reality, copyright law varies, of course, and Apple, as it would be with any company, uses copyright law to protect their intellectual property and their products. What of DRM; digital rights management laws?
Apple has insisted for years that it would embrace an entirely DRM-free world if music, movie, and TV producers would get behind it.
Uh, no Apple has never said any such thing. While the company is on record as being willing to compete in music, movie, and TV show sales without DRM, that’s where the line has always been drawn.
Aside from still offering DRM-laden movies and TV shows on iTunes (which can reasonably be attributed to content producers), Apple itself is happy to employ DRM to keep its own products from being used in unapproved ways.
The difference here isn’t a nuance. As an example, DRM for music has both worked and failed. Music from Apple’s iTunes store was originally sold dripping in DRM, yet iTunes became the de facto standard and dominant player and store for online music sales. Apple’s stance to sell media without DRM has to do with marketing, not legality. If Apple chooses to use existing copyright law and DRM to prohibit the sale and use of Mac OS X on non-Apple hardware, the company is well within its rights to do so. Copyright freedom (whatever that is) has nothing to do with it, unless it’s the freedom to exercise existing copyright laws (or, exercise freedom to change laws).
Ditto for the use of DRM in prohibiting non-Apple software and hardware from connecting to Apple’s products, whether iPods, iPhones, or iTunes. Apple makes the products and the experience, end to end. Apple uses copyright law (DMCA) accordingly, to protect that experience. They have both the right and responsibility to do so.
Apple vs. Lawbreakers
What about customers who buy the popular iPhone but want to run non-Apple approved applications on it? Are they not within their rights to break into the iPhone (jailbreaking)?
Apple’s stance against iPhone jailbreakers isn’t too surprising. Jailbreaking allows third parties to create applications and add additional functionality to the iPhone that wouldn’t otherwise be allowed, including running background applications and inevitably unlocking the device to be used on unapproved carriers.
Apple is well within their rights under existing law to prosecute, deny, or circumvent such scurrilous activities. Cheng uses the EFF stance on the issue (Electronic Frontier Foundation) as proof that Apple’s ways are nefarious and misguided.
The EFF, on the other hand, says that neither jailbreaking nor installing legally produced programs would violate Apple’s copyrights, and that’s why jailbreaking should continue to be allowed under the DMCA.
Unremarkably, the EFF’s stance doesn’t matter. If Apple can persuade the courts to rule in the company’s favor on such copyright issues, then the law is not being abused by Apple, it is being used by Apple. Is copyright law being abused if the EFF can get either the law changed, or interpretation of the law changed? Apple might think so, but that kind of give and take, push and pull, is the norm, not the exception.
Is There Really An Issue Here?
I don’t think so. Apple has, and rightfully so (it’s important to protect shareholder value, by defending the company’s intellectual property and lawful rights), filed lawsuits to prevent even online discussion of how to circumvent Apple’s DRM to enable copyright infringement. Apple believed, under the law, that such engagement was illegal.
Apple is accused of using, possibly abusing, the law to its advantage. Using? Yes. And there are plenty of examples to support Apple’s use of various copyright laws to protect both products and property (such action could be considered a fiduciary responsibility). Abuse? Where? How? EFF supporters and so-called copyright freedom lackeys seem to think that copyright protection should extend to those who wish to use the copyrighted products and information of others for any purpose. If so, what’s the point of a copyright in the first place?