Wiki operator sues Apple over censorship

The Apple computer company has forced the public Web site BluWiki to remove a series of articles and discussions on user modifications for the iPod and iPhone products. Apple threatened legal action against the owner of the Web site, OdioWorks, unless the Web site removed certain pages, which discussed ways to modify the Apple products to they would operate with other (non-Apple) software.

Apple's shutdown demand to the noncommercial and public Internet wiki was designed to force the Web site’s owners to remove any discussion on making iPods and iPhones compatible with media management software such as WinAmp and Songbird. However, this action was called a violation of the users' First Amendment rights, according to an April 27 lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Apple claimed the BluWiki public discussions amounted to copyright infringement and a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's prohibition on circumventing copy protection measures. OdioWorks, fearing Apple's legal liability threats, removed the discussions from its BluWiki site.

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

The Electronic Frontier Foundation decided to take up OdioWorks’ case and this week asked the court for a declaratory judgment that the Web site’s discussions do not violate any of the DMCA's anticircumvention provisions and therefore do not infringe any copyrights owned by Apple.

"Apple's legal threats against BluWiki are about censorship, not about protecting their legitimate copyright interests," EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann said in a statement. "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."

No one can claim Apple doesn’t aggressively defend what it perceives as its IP. And, anyone who even mistakenly wanders in front of this aggressive bully has every likelihood of being gored.

Additional resources are available at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.