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« Free Speech Belongs to Us All | Main | Grassroots Journalism and the Law »

January 11, 2005

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Comments

Felicia Krippet

It's back to the future ... with Apple's iPod line regressing to a feature set offered by Rio in 2002, with memory 1/8th that of the MINI iPod! With no display of information at all. Nada.

And the innovation of the new mini iMac! Who'da thunk, putting a computer into a small cube?

CCK

Dan,
I think that comment about the mac mini needing more to be useful is kind of inaccuate.

Jim Hill

Dan:

If you own a relatively-modern computer, the only thing you need to make the Mini useful is a USB KVM switch. Since I happen to have one of those already, it's time to bust out the Visa and get my purchase on.

ken

Well, I disagree with you Dan. Apple should be able to go after people who steal or release confidential documents. Why should companies worry about people coming to steal documents and let competitors get the jump on them. This is just not an apple issue, but a whole business issue. It is the principle of the matter. What if foreign companies start spying more on American chip makers, i.e.,Intel-AMD and all of a sudden we have a market dump of chips that our American companies make. It wont be good for us or the employees of those companies who work hard on those products. While I disagree with some of the things you say. I know someone will say that this is a total republican/democrat issue. But it isn't, this is a serious issue. I am not against those who want to have free speech, but there has been a line crossed. Those who put that plans on the site are just as guilty. It seems that the scoop for reports/bloggers/websites is getting worse.

Tim Robertson

I think the EEF defending a site which encourages people to break the law is deplorable, as is your idea that ThinkSecret.com did nothing wrong. You are on the wrong side of this one, Dan...

Tim

jerry

Regarding the mini-Mac When you say it will be more expensive to be useful, are you speaking about hardware, or software?

Like many, but not all, I have a full complement of extra pieces of hardware, mice, monitors, keyboard.

As a Windows & Linux user, I have no Macintosh software, but I do have kids. I'm thinking of getting this as my kids' next computer.

Regarding the Shuffle, Apple has completely captured the way I use my Rio Forge AND made it cheaper and with more memory. (I purchased the Rio about three weeks ago...) There are two problems. I listen to Audible books as well as mp3s, but not randomly. I'd like to find out how (if I can) I listen to one or more audio books, keep their bookmarks, and also shuffle my music. The Shuffle's PR does say it is audible compatible. The other issue I have is the lack of display. That's was a great song, what am I listening to?

jerry

1. Breaking your NDA == breaking a contract
2. Operating your press == freedom of speech

Steve Shepard

Regarding the "daring" grassroots-journalism sites: If their information did, in fact, come from insiders, then the operators of the sites were acting as fences for stolen goods. I suppose they can claim they didn't know the goods were stolen, but that would stretch the bounds of credibility.

I doubt that a traditional media outlet would have published confidential information of this nature.

Joe I.

How about I take and publish your SSI number online Dan. This is NOT free speech it is theft and publishing trade secrets that are clearly under NDA (the person forwarding them should see a jail cell) and the law states it is Apple's property. This is NOT like having government (public) information which the public has the right to. It is a private business!! Do you think Dan if someone sends me your personal information I should publish it online with all your public records??? Property, licenses, medical and insurance records etc. I could claim free speech under your logic!

Now, I won't do that of course, but my point is you would have a right to sue me for invasion of privacy and have the "leak" of that tracked through the legal process. Publishing a business's confidential trade secrets are an invasion of Apple's privacy and clearly theft.

This happened to me early on when I first started my consulting business. A competitor basically stole from an insider information that almost put me out of business because my first and only client at the time was about to walk. I should have sued but didn't have the time or funds then. Looking back that was a mistake.

Clearly Think Secerts knew this information was proprietary and therefore is liable. Again Apple is not a government entity, the public has NO right to know. It is a crime!

Craig

Regarding the comments by Ken, Tim and Steve:

Journalists have a right to the confidentiality of their sources in their quest for news stories. That's the law. Perhaps you don't like it, but it's designed to protect the identities of whistleblowers and protect you against the strongarming of corporations trying to hide their lawbreaking.

So the question here isn't about the right to confidential sources, which seems to be what you're arguing, it's about extending that right to blogger-journalists.

Just to beat this into the ground; if the courts held that bloggers had to reveal their sources, then we've established a two tier system for journalism where rich corporations go by different laws than individuals.

Is this what you want?

David

I think the comment about more money to be useful is way off base. If I'm new to computers the Apple store employee is going to point me to the iMac not the mini. But if I already own a PC all I really need is a $30 KVM if I want convenience, or I can play the cable switch dance. And I'm sure there are lots of PC owners who have a monitor sitting in the basement. Then all we need is a $10 mouse and a $15 monitor.

Joe I.

Craig, you are wrong and right. Whistle blowers and people out to protect the public from wrong doing have nothing to do with what happened here. What was released only hurts Apple and is in NO way in the public interest to know that knowledge. You are comparing apples and oranges!!

ken

I agree with Joe. These people were not blowing the lid on some Apple wrongdoing! That is another ball game there. I would agree with you if the fact was that Apple had mislead the public on something and it deserved to be in the open. But this is an example of breaking the law, Apple's rules, not to mention being really unethical.

Janne

You are right about the usefulness. 256Mb is too little for a desktop; count on at least doubling it.

Many computer owners have spare keyboards and mice, and even if they don't, getting a low-cost unit is very cheap. The monitor is a different thing; spare monitors that are good enough to use isn't something people generally have lying around (if the old monitor really was good enough, you wouldn't have gotten an new one in the first place).

So, for a desktop, you are realistically looking at a price of about $800 or thereabouts (more if you insist on getting Office or Photoshop, of course). Still not bad, but not "blowing-a-gasket" amazing either.


THe other debate - publishing info - the site did _nothing_ wrong. They had not signed an NDA or anything; they are free to publish it. And nobody else has broken a law; between Apple and its wayward employee(s), it's all a contract issue.

craig

Joe,
Apples and oranges? Hardly. The bloggers have a source of information at Apple. They used the source to publish a news story. What the source is revealing is irrelevant because you can't write a law distinguishing between what's protected and what's not because, let's face it: Who's going to decide? You? Me? Or the power elite?

Frankly, the need is so great (and so obvious)to protect the rights of bloggers to publish without revealing their sources that I'm surprised that this is even a discussion.

Steve Shepard

Craig said "Journalists have a right to the confidentiality of their sources in their quest for news stories. That's the law."

I'm not sure second sentence is true. I suspect that in this day and age it is sadly untrue. In several recent high-profile cases (e.g. the case surrounding the leak of a CIA operative's name), journalists were given jail time for not revealing their sources. Legal precedent on freedom-of-the-press issues is probably not as clear cut as it could be (be careful what you ask for...). Perhaps someone with a legal background can comment.

Janne said "the site did _nothing_ wrong." Which kind of wrong are you talking about? Legally wrong? I don't know enough about the case (or the law) to make that statement. Morally wrong? I disagree. It is like buying goods that you know are stolen.

Karen

I think bloggers should be held to the same standards as journalists. I'm a graduate of Columbia J-School and worked several years as a news reporter on metropolitan dailies. None of the papers I worked for would publish information they knew had been stolen. Sure, we often used leaks of stolen info to leverage attributable information out of people who could then be quoted, but we didn't publish anything if we couldn't get some corroborating evidence or official acknowledgment. The rationale in the newsroom was not based on ethics alone; we realized that if we couldn't confirm the information, we might end up as pawns in someone's plan to leak erroneous information and harm the reputation of an ex-spouse, former employer, or competitor. If bloggers don't have the same (quite minimal) responsibilities as the journalists employed by media outlets, do they have any responsibilities at all?

Tim Robertson

There IS no law, nor have there ever been, that protected a reporters sources. That has never been the case. In fact, the ONLY confidentiality agreement is between the journalist and his/her source. If the journalist promises confidentiality and breaks it, then the source does have a legal recourse in a civil courtroom. But if a judge asks a reporter to name a source, they have to, or face contempt of court.

So to say that ThinkSecret is doing nothing wrong is false. They are ASKING people to break an NDA from Apple. (Look on their website if you don’t believe me, they actually solicit stolen information!)

This is NOT a freedom of the press, holding bloggers lower than other new organizations, or anything of the sort. This is, quite simply, a case of people breaking an NDA (A LEGAL document!) at the behest of a web site. Not in the public good, but to broadcast a companies trade secrets to the world. (And that companies competitors don’t forget, which include foreign and domestic companies)

Dan, usually I am right with you on most issues, but you are wrong here. 100% wrong.

bobbie

First things first: prove someone has actually broken an NDA.

Yesterday I saw pictures from some Italian guys who sneaked a look at the iPod Shuffle before it was announced. It just shows that there are plenty of ways to get hold of sensitive information without breaking contracts.

(There's also the question of Apple's attitude towards PR and how it deals with the press in general, but that's a bit of a sideline really)

Dominic Jones

Dan,

You say they're arrogant. I disagree. They're out of their depth.

Apple needs to grow up, and so do all of their devotees. It's either that, or the company blows up.

The company is no longer an underdog company. It's got to stop seeing enemies under the bed.

Time to shed the bunker mentality and start acting grown up.

People don't like bullies, complainers and environmental polluters.

Trouble ahead ...

setmajer

On the lawsuits:

The 'rumor' sites didn't sign any NDAs. Their sources did. If the sources break the NDAs, that's the sources' problem -- not the rumor sites'. I'm with Dan 100% on this. Apple needs to get slapped.

On the Mac Mini:

Whether it's useful at $499 or not is a matter of what's 'useful' and whether you have a keyboard + mouse + monitor laying about.

256 MB RAM should be (barely) enough for basic web + email + LIGHT word processing, and even PS/2 mice and keyboards can be used with a cheap ($5 or so) adapter. So it might not be so much more than $499, depending on one's needs.

That said the 256 MB RAM is a bit light (I'd say it needs 512 anyway to be happy). my understanding is that it needs to be installed by an Apple-certified tech or the warranty is voided. That's unfortunate. Best bet for the savvy: find a cheap price for aftermarket RAM, print it out and take it to an Apple Store to price-match. I've heard they do that. Or call up your local Apple-certified service provider and ask them if they'll install 3rd-party RAM. I've heard the charge is in the area of $30, which isn't cheap but it's a WHOLE lot less than Apple RAM is better than voiding the warranty.

Beyond that, it's not so bad: 17" CRT monitors can be had for under $100, 15" LCDs for under $200. Keyboard + mouse are under $50. Many folks will have those items already anyway.

You also need to figure that you're getting some pretty serious software with it (iMovie & GarageBand, for example).

As well, most comparably-priced PCs use shared-RAM graphics. This has a real (and decent) graphics card. It's not the best Doom 3 box ever, but it's a whole lot better than a cheapo PC.

I'm not sure cheapo PCs are the right basis for comparison anyway. The Mini is /very/ competitive price-wise with Small Form-Factor PCs, and one of the best-looking available at any price. Throw in a Keyspan or Griffin remote, a DVI-S-video adapter and eyeTV and you've got a sweet media PC.

I suspect this is another iPod. When that came out, people (including myself) thought of it as a Nomad with less storage and a higher price tag. That proved very, very wrong. I suspect looking at the Mini as an underpowered, overpriced budget PC is similarly wrong. It's aimed at a different market, one that until now has been the province of do-it-yourselfers and niche vendors.

Looked at that way, it's a pretty solid deal.

Neil T.

Like others, I'm with Dan. The person who should be in trouble is the person who broke the NDA, not the people who then published the information given to them by the infringer.

I read somewhere that the US is one of only a few countries where trade secrets actually have legal protection. Seems a bit stupid to me as it's no longer a secret when everyone knows about it!

But then I'm not a lawyer.

Peter

Apple really needs to be going after both the people who are breaking the NDA's and the website that published the information.

The people who broke the NDA should be a no brainer in any civil court in the country. It's not a criminal offense but Apple definitely has options for restitution available to them, depending on the wording of the NDA. I suppose it's entirely possible that the NDA expires within a given timeframe after you sever your releationship with Apple but I doubt it.

As for the website... possession of stolen goods is just as illegal as the act of theft itself. If someone goes to a museum and steals a Picasso painting, and I buy it from them or even 2 or 3 steps down the line. If the authorities find out about it, they're still going to come knocking on my door, and at the very least, forcibly remove the painting from my premises. Will I face jail time or have to pay restitution? Depends on the circumstances, and whether or not the theft was commissioned for my personal gain. But, clearly my having the painting is illegal otehrwise they couldn't reclaim it.

Katherine

Stolen goods? Pretty inflammatory language.

But what if the stolen photograph shows a government official taking a bribe? A military policeman beating a prisoner? What about stolen documents showing that yes, the electricity trader really was bidding against itself to drive prices up? Or showing that the investment analyst didn't believe in the stocks he was promoting?

Companies and governments do lots of things that they would prefer to keep secret. Often, society as a whole benefits when those secrets are revealed.

In the case at hand, the secrets at issue are relatively trivial, not terribly important to anyone except Apple. But how can you protect people with big important secrets (like official corruption) if you can't protect people with small trivial secrets?

Enoch

IP is so abstract from actual human experience, you are either going to defend it because you are socialized to think that intangible information about products are worth more than human freedom, or because you have something to lose from the masses no longer repecting the laws of man that govern such things.

As someone said, Apple is used to being the underdog. They also have a track record for bad public relations. Without getting into the hyperrealist analysis of that I would like to point out that there were no actual damages here.

What is really amazing about everyone defending Apple is, even within the framework of how these laws work Apple does not have a foundation. Trade secrets are not goods. Why? Because noone has ever presented that to the highest court of the land. And I hope they don't, common law always screws over the common citizen, and this will be no less. Apple is basically playing off your ignorance about IP law to downplay that they are targeting the people who supported them through their lean years. Good game for all.

-e

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