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Suit Accuses Apple Of Stifling

The Web site is fighting Apple's contention that just talking about making the iPhone and iPod work on software other than iTunes is a copyright violation.

Apple has been sued over legal threats the company made to a noncommercial wiki Web site that posted discussions on an open source effort to make the iPhone and iPod work on software other than iTunes.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and lawyers representing OdioWorks, operators of the site, filed the lawsuit Monday in federal court in San Francisco. The case could prove important in defining limits of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which protects against copyright violations.

Apple started the legal controversy last November by demanding that OdioWorks take down discussions about the iPodhash project, claiming that simply talking about reverse-engineering Apple products to circumvent technology tying its hardware to iTunes violated the DMCA. Fearing legal action from Apple, OdioWorks, a noncommercial operation, took down the discussions.

However, OdioWorks is now fighting back with the help of San Francisco law firm Keker & Van Nest and the EFF.

"I take the free speech rights of BluWiki users seriously," Sam Odio, owner of OdioWorks, said in a statement. "Companies like Apple should not be able to censor online discussions by making baseless legal threats against services like BluWiki that host the discussions."

An Apple spokesperson declined comment Tuesday, saying the company does not discuss pending litigation.

OdioWorks' lawsuit asks the court to decide whether the discussions violated the DMCA. If a judge decides they don't infringe on Apple copyrights, then OdioWorks plans to restore the discussions.

"Apple's legal threats against BluWiki are about censorship, not about protecting their legitimate copyright interests," said Fred von Lohmann, senior staff lawyer for the EFF. "It's legal to engage in reverse engineering in order to create a competing product, it's legal to talk about reverse engineering, and it's legal for a public wiki to host those discussions."

The BluWiki discussions centered on making it possible for the iPod Touch and iPhone to work with competing media management software, such as WinAmp and Songbird. A motivation behind the effort is to allow people with Linux PCs to communicate with the Apple hardware. Apple doesn't ship a Linux version of iTunes.

The EFF has posted a copy of the lawsuit online, as well as supporting documents.

Each year, InformationWeek honors the nation's 500 most innovative users of business technology. Companies with $250 million or more in revenue are invited to apply for the 2009 InformationWeek 500 by May 1.

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