Apple is being accused of stifling free speech; again

In November 2008 Virginia-based OdioWorks, operator of BluWiki a non-commercial wiki that promises publishing without censorship, received a takedown notice from Apple demanding that it remove user postings about how to “write software that can sync media to the latest versions of the iPhone and iPod Touch.”Here's the backstory courtesy of MacBlogz:Slashdot explains: “Apple has sent a DMCA takedown notice to the IpodHash project, claiming it circumvents their FairPlay DRM scheme.

In November 2008 Virginia-based OdioWorks, operator of BluWiki a non-commercial wiki that promises publishing without censorship, received a takedown notice from Apple demanding that it remove user postings about how to “write software that can sync media to the latest versions of the iPhone and iPod Touch.”

Here's the backstory courtesy of MacBlogz:

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.

Two San Francisco-based law firms, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Keker & Van Nest have announced that they are taking up the case and representing BluWiki.

Apple claims that the BluWiki discussions amounted to copyright infringement and violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act because the thread discussed methods to circumvent encryption technology.

The EFF's Fred von Lohmann contends that no laws were broken by BluWiki because the writers of the wiki threads...

...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.

Full disclosure: This case is near and dear to my heart because Apple sued my ISP in 2004 for access to my email in the precident-setting Apple V. Does case. The EFF represented me in the case in which we prevailed in 2006.

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