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Apple Drops Complaint Against Bluwiki

After threatening to sue the operator of a public wiki site over an anonymous discussion about syncing iPods using software other than iTunes, Apple has changed its tune.

Apple has withdrawn legal threats sent last year to Bluwiki, a public wiki hosting site that contained anonymously authored pages about creating software to synchronize Apple iPods and iPhones using media management software other that Apple's iTunes.

The Bluwiki discussion concerned efforts to reverse engineer a code Apple began including in its devices after September 2007 to limit access to the iTunesDB file. Without access to that file, third-party media software like gtkpod, Winamp, or Songbird won't work properly with Apple's devices.

In a July 8 letter, Apple said that it "has stopped utilizing the code in question, rendering the code obsolete for the purposes at issue in this action."

"While we are glad that Apple retracted its baseless legal threats, we are disappointed that it only came after seven months of censorship and a lawsuit," said Fred Von Lohmann, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), in a statement.

Apple initially objected to the discussion, calling it copyright infringement and a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which outlaws products and services designed to circumvent technological protection measures. In response, Bluwiki removed the pages at issue.

However, the EFF and San Francisco-based law firm Keker & Van Nest filed a lawsuit against Apple in April to defend the free speech rights of Bluwiki's owner and its users.

With Apple's withdrawal of its complaint against Bluwiki, the EFF said that it has dismissed it lawsuit against Apple.

Sam Odio, founder of OdioWorks, which operates the Bluwiki project, said, "I'm very relieved the whole ordeal is over. It was a hard decision to stand up for free speech instead of bowing to Apple's demands."

Odio also said that both he and Von Lohmann would have liked to see the case set a precedent about the rights of programmers to discuss code online. He said he believed that Apple withdrew the case because the company realized that pursuing its claim would generate negative publicity.

Von Lohmann's assertion that Apple's DMCA claim was weak may also have had something to do with the company's decision.

After the legal details are resolved, Odio said that he expects the Bluwiki pages removed at Apple's insistence will be restored.

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