updated 07:31 pm EDT, Fri October 11, 2013
Music site exploits publicity, complains of 'substandard' terms
A digital music news site was forced to take down a copy of an iTunes Radio contract it had been given and published -- opting to post the entire contract online rather than just discuss the portions it wanted to highlight, prompting a copyright claim from Apple. While some have claimed that Apple's beef was more about suppressing business details than protecting copyright, the site's tactics raise the question of whether its okay to break the law in the name of trying to garner hits.
In fact, it took Apple three months to discover the site had published the contract in the first place -- it originally appeared in June. The site took issue with the fact that apparently terms for smaller labels were less favorable than for larger ones -- even though the labels in question were happy to sign said contract. But rather than simply editorialize on the point, the site opted to publish a confidential business document -- suggesting that their motivation may have been more to garner publicity than to actually dissect the industry's workings.
Apple has approached sites -- including MacNN -- with demands to take down leaked images, documents or other evidence of future products or other meant-to-be-confidential information. Indeed, a few years ago it was considered verification of a leak if a site heard from Apple Legal, though the company eventually changed strategies.
In an effort to scoop competitors, sites such as this one routinely publish images of leaked parts and stories about business dealings. Particularly with Apple and other tech companies, there is a constant interest by news organizations to discover the latest news from that company, and on some occasions individuals or sites have crossed a legal line to do so.
In previous years, Apple has gone as far as obtaining search warrants to find lost or stolen prototype iPhones, and prosecuting both developers and others who leaked sensitive data. The law allows companies to protect certain "trade secrets" and the violation of those terms famously led to Apple forcing the closure of a rumors site called Think Secret in 2007. Current parts leakers like Australian teen Sonny Dickson may someday find himself on the business end of a subpoena and forced to reveal his sources.
Other than the recent copyright claim on the digital music contract, however, Apple appears to have changed tactics with "rumor" sites -- not actively fighting leaked part photos anymore, for example, and keeping its powder dry for battles where a legal line that can't be easily defended as "freedom of the press" has been crossed. Both former CEO Steve Jobs and SVP of Marketing for Apple Phil Schiller eventually ended up joking publicly about some image leaks of forthcoming products. The company, however, appears to be as vigilant as ever when it comes to legal breaches or internal business details that could damage the company's plans -- as the latest incident shows.