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Comments by YACCS
Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Sue, Apple, sue

Apple: sue crazy

Apple Lawsuit: Dangerous For Free Speech Or PR Hype?
Posted on Wednesday, January 5, 2005
By Tera Patricks

TruthNews of impending announcements of a $500 Mac and new applications spurred Apple to legal action. Mac rumor web site Think Secret and other individuals and alleged that recent articles contain Apple trade secrets.

Is the lawsuit designed to protect Apple’s “secrets,” impede free speech rights of web sites, or is this simply a new component of marketing and PR?

Numerous Mac web sites and mainstream media have spread the “rumor” of an impending $500 Mac and new Mac applications. The pro-Mac web site Think Secret was one of the first to release the information to the public.

Think Secret has often been the public source of accurate information (rumors) about new Apple product information, lending more respectability to recent news of a $500 Mac.

Is Apple attempting to plug a leak in the secretive corporate culture of Cupertino (thereby protecting important trade secrets), or is the Mac maker trying to intimidate the non-mainstream Mac media? Or, is this really a combination of both but with the added benefit (by design) of gaining tremendous public relations notice?

Here’s what cNet is reporting:

“Apple has filed a civil complaint against the owner of and unnamed individuals who we believe stole Apple’s trade secrets...” “We believe that Think Secret solicited information about unreleased Apple products from these individuals, who violated their confidentiality agreements with Apple by providing details that were later posted on the Internet.”

Hmmm. I see a few problems developing on the immediate horizon. First, Apple is well within their rights to sue to protect trade secrets. The company is among the most secretive in the US technology field.

How many of us knew about the sunflower iMac before the Time Magazine article?

Apple’s lawsuit, successful or not, will have a dampening effect on a number of Mac sites which specialize in digging up secret information (also known as “dirt” or rumors) for those of us who simply can’t get enough just by using our Macs daily.

The quote above says Think Secret solicited information about unreleased Apple products from various individuals. These same individuals apparently violated confidentiality agreements with Apple. The Cupertino computer maker now wants their collective necks hung out to dry (to mix a few metaphors).

In the process, some Mac sites may scale back their dirt digging efforts in fear of the expense of a lawsuit or two from Apple.

Apple fucked up, since the kid at ThinkSecret got a decent lawyer. These kinds of suits are doomed in state and federal court, since the First Amendment trumps pretty much every other law. Apple cannot prove any theft, for one thing. And the deposition could reveal a lot more than one Apple secret. Why? Because as a defense, the defendent can ask exactly how Apple decides on a PR strategy, favored journalists, exactly what they consider a trade secret. I would think Apple would be scared shitless of discovery, much less an actual deposition. What they had wanted was to do one of two things: shut up MacRumors sites (MS ignores Windows rumors sites) and to scare employees.

I don't get why companies think everyone will roll over on them.

And considering that these folks are among the most ferverent Apple supporters, aren't they worried about a backlash. But given the culty comments on Dan Gilmor's column, most of the posters are clueless.

I'm all for companies protecting their rights, but suing writers is clueless and more likely to lead to an embarassing defeat. Jobs is a massive control freak, which may be fine with his machines, but once it gets into free speech, he's likely to be humiliated.

Apple Suit Is Wrong Kind of Different

Opinion by Dan Gillmor

FEBRUARY 07, 2005 (COMPUTERWORLD) - When Steve Jobs took the stage at the recent Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco to make his keynote speech, suspense was thick in the cavernous hall. But it wasn't the standard "What will he announce?" brand of suspense that has marked Apple Computer's recent events of this kind.

Apple, one of the most famously secretive companies in the technology business, frames this case and several like it as little more than attempts to protect massively valuable trade secrets. The value strikes me as questionable, and the larger reality is an Apple-aimed dagger at one of the foundations of free speech: a vibrant press.

In the case at hand, the target is Think Secret ( The site, operated by a Harvard freshman named Nicholas Ciarelli (who goes by the site pen name of Nick dePlume), had apparently gotten information that was leaked by someone, perhaps inside Apple, about the consumer products Apple would be announcing.

Apple has said in statements that Think Secret induced people to violate nondisclosure agreements and that this somehow gives Apple a cause for legal action. That's debatable, but I'm fairly sure of this: If the party leaking information to Think Secret had sent it to, say, the San Jose Mercury News or The New York Times -- and had those publications run the news, as they no doubt would have -- Apple wouldn't be suing. Both newspapers have deep enough pockets to defend themselves.

Induce how? A college freshman, even at Harvard, doesn't have spare money to pay people. So what is the inducement? Anonymous fame?

The reason Apple can act so stupidly is the company is immune to consumer critcism. Apple culties refuse to demand decent standards from the company, and it's behavior can border on the thuggish to those out of it's control. There is no real reason for the obsessive secrecy of Apple except as part of Jobs's ego.

It's the DIVX suit part two: bully a defendent too poor to defend himself. Well, depending on the balls of the defendent, this can be a seriously risky strategy. All it takes is one defendent to get their back up and you have a serious legal battle. The kind of people who run these sites are not likely to run from a cease and desist letter.

A much smarter strategy would be to cultivate these people, leak information to them and generally encourage the image of them having a pipeline to Apple. These folks are not critical of Apple, they love the company. The kid running ThinkSecret has been more than willing to pull stuff when asked. He's cooperated with the company, and now they sue him?

Instead, this risks making a small fight big, when the newspapers file affadavits in favor of the bloggers. Apple could have a lot of secrets come out in open court.

I never understand why tech companies do this. Sure, some people will back down, but if they don't they will fight like they were in Pavlov's house, and won't be moved. It's a much riskier legal strategy than it seems at the time, especially when First Amendment issues are in play. Once that happens, then all hell can break loose.

posted by Steve @ 1:30:00 AM

1:30:00 AM

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