Apple sics lawyers on hot and bothered MacBook Pro users

Apple sics lawyers on hot and bothered MacBook Pro users

Summary: Apple's new MacBook Pro is one hot machine, both literally and figuratively. One enterprising Something Awful reader took apart his machine to find out why and discovered a mess in the way thermal glue was applied to the heat sink. But instead of acknowledging and offering to fix the problem, Apple's legal department responded with a threatening letter.


Apple's new MacBook Pro is one hot machine, both literally and figuratively. One enterprising Something Awful reader took apart his machine to find out why and discovered a mess in the way thermal glue was applied to the heat sink. Apparently, Apple's own service manual shows the sloppy manufacturing process that is causing the heat problem.

So Apple immediately acknowledged and offered to fix the problem, right? Wrong. Apple's legal department responded with a threatening letter because the image from the manual was copyrighted. The letter was marked "Privileged/Confidential, Not for Posting or Redistribution", so of course the webmaster posted a copy on his site. According to the letter, "Apple reserves its right to contact your [SA's] Internet Service Provider in the event you do not comply with these demands". This should lead to some amusing PR damage control in the days to come.

By the way, check out this site showing before and after pictures of the thermal glue mess in the stock Apple MacBook Pro, followed by the cleaned up version that the user did himself to make the notebook run much cooler. Aside from the heat, which one would you rather have in your brand new $2500 machine? Some users are so annoyed by the MacBook Pro quality issues that they're organizing a protest for May 20th. Maybe Apple should hire this guy to run their quality control.

Update: Does your MacBook Pro "moo"? Somebody managed to capture the sound in an MP3 file. Hilarious. 

Topic: Apple

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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  • Wow

    The pictures are horrifying.

    Is this the PowerBook 5300 all over again?
  • This is why Apple is an evil company

    And people wonder how I can like OSX while being disgusted with the company that makes it. People seem to envision Apple as this cute little bunny fighting the good fight against the evil 800lb gorilla. Sure, Apple is a bunny... the bunny from Monty Python's Holy Grail! Just don't expose your neck to Jobs and you should do just fine. :)
    • They've done worse

      I think this is much less evil than some of Apple's other actions, like suing bloggers. They have a copyrighted set of information that they sell, and someone is posting a photo from that information online. Which is infringement, clear and simple. This is no different from me posting a song from the new Bruce Springsteen album on my website.

      That said, I'd be happier to see Apple react in a different manner. Their secretive nature when it comes to fixes for issues can be annoying. Usually, they come through in the end and take care of their customers, but along the way, they come off as paranoid and domineering.
      tic swayback
      • Nope

        Let's say you're a camera-person for CNN. I'm standing next to you with my handi-cam taping the same thing you are from the same angle. When you air your clips on the network (and they become copyrighted), does that mean my tape now falls under your copyright as well.

        The article said this guy took apart his computer and photographed it. Does something in Apple's EULA specifically prohibit that? Even if the picture was EXACTLY the same as the one in Apple's manual, there is nothing wrong with posting a picture of your computer.
        Real World
        • Go back and re-read

          He used an image from an Apple manual, not a picture of his own computer.

          Go re-read the article:

          "Apple's legal department responded with a threatening letter because the image from the manual was copyrighted."
          tic swayback
          • It's not real clear

            "Something Awful reader took apart his machine"

            I assumed since he had it apart, he photographed it and used that. I would have.
            Real World
          • There was more than one picture

            He took pictures of his own machine, and then said basically "no wonder it's wrong, look in Apple's manual, it says right here to do the wrong thing" and posted a picture from the manual proving that. The threatened suit was about that last picture.

            It's kind of like, "sorry, you're not allowed to take pictures in this prison so we have to arrest you for doing that" without looking at what the pictures uncovered.
            Ed Burnette
      • Re: They've done worse

        [i]They have a copyrighted set of information that they sell, and someone is posting a photo from that information online. Which is infringement, clear and simple.[/i]

        [u]This is not original to me:[u]
        Section 107 of the Copyright Act contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered ?fair,? such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

        1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

        2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

        3) amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

        4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

        [u]This is:[/u]
        Apple will never convice a court that the use of the this work on this forum will pass any of the four tests above for infringement.

        The question isn't whether the site or the post's author is infringing. The question is whether Apple can succeed in stifling legitimate speech through the use of frivolous lawsuits intended to either intimidate or financially drain.

        none none
        • Good point

          Could this re-use of copyrighted material be considered fair use? There certainly seems to be a case to be made. The problem with the fair use laws is that you have to go to court to determine if something really is fair use. Apple can demand a retraction and/or sue. If the court decides it's not fair use, the guy in question is in big trouble, so it's probably not worth the risk to him.

          So in a sense, it is squashing free speech, whether Apple is right here or not.
          tic swayback
          • Go for it

            Reproducing a single photo in a manual is absolutely fair use in this case - Apple does not have a leg to stand on. Heck, they even got attribution so "MixedBag" is totally covered.

            But the threat of court action can stifle free speech 'cos "MixedBag" may not have the time/money/inclination to defend the action.

            Apple are in the wrong here.
            Fred Fredrickson
      • Isn't that fair use?

        It is technically educational use. Think about it, the guy is teaching others why the hardware run so hot. So technically it's a fair use issue isn't it?
        • The copyright holder specifically outlined ...

          ... that it was not to be placed on the web. Fair Use is a stretch!
          • That wouldn't make a difference

            A copyright holder can't make any proclamations about what can and can't be done with their material under fair use. You can't just say, "this material can not be used in any parody that makes fun of me", just as you can't say "this picture can't go on the web." What if there was some horrible controversy over the picture--could the NY Time run it on their website even if the copyright holder didn't want them to?

            As I said above, the problem with fair use is it's hard to know if something is fair use unless a court has already ruled on that specific use. Fair use is judged on a case by case basis, so in some ways you have to stick your neck out and go ahead and use something, then possibly get sued for it (and possibly win).
            tic swayback
          • That's not something copyrights grant

            Both parties must follow the law. If fair use allows it then there is noting Apple can do. Of course it takes a court to decide what fair use is if this is disputed.
    • Non-NonZealot

      Turn's out old NonZealot is actually a zealot after all. It seems a
      worker bee in an overseas factory got to happy with the squirt
      gun and began a chain of events that embedded Apple as the
      incarnation of pure evil. Pick a lifeboat and welcome aboard.

      At some point in the near future, it will occur to the hardware
      hot rodders, that these machines are not a Ford Falcon. It will
      come clear that the hardware doesn't matter, it never did. The
      extent that it might matter is exactly the extent to which it is
      integrated with the software. I this way, hardware ,matters but
      only on Apple's platform (gasps from the crowd). You heard it
      here first, the inability to choose your motherboard or fan or
      pimp lights is inconsequential. Being disgusted by it is nothing
      short of comic.
      Harry Bardal
      • I believe the evil he was refering to ...

        ... was suing the user for attempting to get to the bottom of a quality issue that Apple is not acknowledging. It tends to negate your whole rant on the hardware not mattering, doesn't it? The comic part is that in your rush to defend Apple you completely ignored what the poster was saying.
        • Yet

          If the good Samaritan had not used copyrighted images, and just took the photos himself, this would be a non issue and Apple would be forced to address the assembly problem immediately forgoing a lawsuit.

          As silly as Apple's suit is and in my opinion should be dropped (presuming the little man complies), the little man is still in the wrong.

          If it was the other way around with the little man being an artist and Apple plagiarizing his work, Apple would be justifiably labeled 'evil' then too. Apple's damned if they do, damned if they don't because of others predisposed notion of everything capitalist being evil.

          I guess the real question is, did Apple really need this PR blunder, even though they are totally in the right, just to remove a few insignificant images? I think probably not.

          I'd also like to know if the perceived but falsely labeled victim cowardly ran to the press screaming "I'm a victim"? I think probably yes.
        • Rants

          Good doctors treat the disease not the symptom.

          The suit is a non issue and Apple is completely within their right
          to pursue a copyright infingement. "Apple is Evil" proponents,
          are usually acting out of jealosy and frustration at having
          invested too heavily in the wrong platform. Pointing out the
          hypocracy and misguided logic is just a public service. This is as
          much about NonZealot's previous positions re hardware love.
          This is also about reactive as opposed to inductive reasoning in
          the larger sense.

          I swear you folks sink youselves with every new word. Try not to
          take it personally though. It's just a debate.
          Harry Bardal
          • Your contention that the hardware ...

            ... doesn't matter is just as false as your attempts to avoid the intent of what the poster said with some pretense of knowing what "Apple is Evil" proponents think. If the hardware doesn't matter then why does Apple wish to control it? Why do you Apple proponents claim that Apple products are of superior quality? It seems the hardware matters a great deal when it suits you. Consider the pointing out of your "hypocracy and misguided logic is just a public service". Your the one who sinks himself with every new word.
      • How on earth can the hardware not matter?

        Apple designs and builds the hardware. To what does the hardware not matter? It definitely matters to the Apple product being sold, which is what is at issue. If you are concocting some entity or attribute to which the hardware does not matter, and saving it to answer a detractor, well, out with it.

        In what possible sense can the hardware not matter?