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Apple Sends Cease and Desist Email to Public Wiki Site, Bluwiki [U]

Apple has sent an official “cease and desist” email to public wiki site Bluwiki, demanding they remove postings where users are trying to figure out how to “write software that can sync media to the latest versions of the iPhone and iPod Touch.”

appleBluwiki is a public wiki site that aims at allowing anyone to publish online without censorship. In a nutshell, Apple’s argument relies on the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act), which was put in place to criminalize those who try and write code, or offer solutions that bypass copyrighted material. For example, a piece of software that tries to access the iPhone’s media and allow a user to sync the device, would be bypassing iTunes and Apple’s copyrighted solutions.

Slashdot explains: “Apple has sent a DMCA takedown notice to the IpodHash project, claiming it circumvents their FairPlay DRM scheme. Some background: Apple first added a hash to the iTunesDB file in 6th-gen iPods, but it was quickly reverse-engineered. They changed it with the release of iPhone 2.0 and a project was started to reverse the new hash, but wasn’t successful yet. My guess is Apple used the same algorithm as FairPlay for the new hash, so Apple could use the DMCA to prevent competing apps like Songbird and Banshee from talking to iPods/iPhones. BTW, don’t tell Apple, but the project uses a wiki, so the old page versions from before the takedown are still there.”

EFF explains: At the heart of this is the iTunesDB file, the index that the iPod operating system uses to keep track of what playable media is on the device. Unless an application can write new data to this file, it won’t be able to “sync” music or other content to an iPod. The iTunesDB file has never been encrypted and is relatively well understood. In iPods released after September 2007, however, Apple introduced a checksum hash to make it difficult for applications other than iTunes to write new data to the iTunesDB file, thereby hindering an iPod owner’s ability to use alternative software (like gtkpod, Winamp, or Songbird) to manage the files on her iPod.

The original checksum hash was reverse engineered in less than 36 hours. Apple, however, has recently updated the hashing mechanism in the latest versions of the iPhone and iPod Touch. Those interested in using software other than iTunes to sync files to these new iPods will need to reverse engineer the hash again. Discussions about that process were posted to the public bluwiki site. Although it doesn’t appear that the authors had yet figured out the new iTunesDB hashing mechanism, Apple’s lawyers nevertheless sent a nastygram to the wiki administrator, who took down the pages in question.

Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann explains that none of the work he saw on the public wiki pages “would appear to constitute a “technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof.” He explains that it was simply some text, along with some illustrative code.

Interestingly, those responsible for posting the info, hadn’t even succeeded in their efforts. “…the authors had apparently not yet succeeded in their reverse engineering efforts and were simply discussing Apple’s code obfuscation techniques. If Apple is suggesting that the DMCA reaches people merely talking about technical protection measures, then they’ve got a serious First Amendment problem,” Lohmann explains.

Mr. Odio:

We represent Apple Inc. (“Apple”). It has come to our attention that a
website you operate, www.bluwiki.com, is disseminating information
designed to circumvent Apple’s FairPlay digital rights management
system. This information is available at

http://bluwiki.com/go/Ipodhash.


FairPlay is considered anti-circumvention technology under the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA explicitly prohibits the
dissemination of information that can be used to circumvent such
technology.

Apple therefore requests that you immediately disable the thread at
http://bluwiki.com/go/Ipodhash. Please notify me by reply e-mail once
you have done so, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Sincerely, /s/ Ian Ramage

Ian Ramage
O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Two Embarcadero Center, 28th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: 415.984.NNNN
Fax: 415.984.NNNN
iramage – at – NNN.com

…and another email.

Per our conversation, the three webpages that I have identified that
violate the DMCA are the following:

http://www.bluwiki.com/go/Itunes_obfuscation

http://bluwiki.com/go/Ipodhash

http://www.bluwiki.com/go/IPodHash_Test_Data_Contribution


If there are others related to circumventing Apple’s FairPlay technology
and/or the iPod/iPhone anti-circumvention measures, those need to come
down as well.

I look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,
Ian Ramage

Read – iPodHash/takedown

Comments [6]

6 Comments to “Apple Sends Cease and Desist Email to Public Wiki Site, Bluwiki [U]

HenryTWOtima @ November 25th, 2008 at 1:29 pm
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Sick. Apple is sick. They are getting slammed from all sides by lawsuits left and right and they send a cease and desist letter to Bluwiki? That’s crazy! Come on Cupertino, get it together. You should be going after the Meizu Mini. http://www.meizu.com/ for ripping you off.

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yuryu45 @ November 25th, 2008 at 1:35 pm
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@Henry: First of all, Apple needs to protect itself. If anyone tries to write a program that could bypass iTunes, Apple would be in some trouble. It makes sense to me that they would try and stop this.

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HenryTWOtima @ November 25th, 2008 at 1:58 pm
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@yuryu: that’s fine. but Apple has bigger fish to fry. especially since it seems they made a mistake with DMCA to begin with.

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shmegal @ November 25th, 2008 at 2:07 pm
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legalities, shmegalities — Apple needs to chill out. Nobody could figure out how to get around iTunes.

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mark @ November 28th, 2008 at 7:14 pm
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@yuryu, but where exactly does the information presented “circumvent” anything?

With the exactly same reasoning they can shut down every discussion about the mechanism.

The DMCA does – in this way – not only shut down technical or software measures, it tries to gag people.

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jojo22 @ November 28th, 2008 at 10:17 pm
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this is out of control. apple is wasting their time on this. there is absolutely no need.

@Mark: shutting down every discussion about the mechanism wouldn’t be good for Apple’s development community, or the face of the company in general.

This obviously goes to show that Apple human moderates a lot of what they read and what is being read about them. If any rep of the company sees a thread popping about a way to “circumvent” iTunes, I’m sure they’d be all about shutting that down immediately.

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