Why does Apple get a free ride?

by Mathew on September 26, 2007 · 61 comments

I really don’t want to get into the usual pissing match that seems to occur whenever someone fails to bow down and worship Steve Jobs’ every move, but I can’t help myself. Why aren’t we seeing more outrage — okay, even a little bit of outrage — about the news that Apple twisted the arm of some guy’s ISP because he was uploading the code embedded in his iPod Touch’s memory.

apple-tstripes.jpgAccording to several reports, this guy was in the process of uploading some of the code stored in his broken iPod’s flash memory, and all of a sudden his Internet provider cuts him off — at the request of Apple. As far as those who have been writing about it can gather, Apple was able to move so quickly because it has been monitoring IRC groups devoted to hacking the Touch.

When DVD Jon hacks the DVD encoding scheme, or the Blue-Ray encoding scheme, or any of the half-dozen other things he has hacked and released into the wild — something that contravenes copyright rules just as much as what the iPod hacker was doing does — everyone cheers because he is fighting The Man, and information wants to be free, etc. etc.

But when The Man happens to be Steve Jobs, all of a sudden people seem to start singing a different tune. Meanwhile, in other Apple=hardass news, there’s this. Now it seems that we all need to add the term “bricking” to our vocabulary.


Rod 09.26.07 at 9:13 pm

I don’t think Apple knows how to deal with people wanting to open their devices. For so long, they’ve had the smaller number of Apple Faithful who were content to hear, “Thou will buy the products and ask no questions” coming out of Cupertino.
Now, they’re not selling a million computers, they’re selling 25 million iPods, and, like it or not, some of those people are going to be among the unwashed who want to see what else the thing can do. Who aren’t willing to put up with, “Steve said we don’t need to know. We just need to pay twice as much as the rest of the world to keep out the infidels”.
Apple is simply afraid that people will find out that the company is either limiting the devices, or hiding the fact that they aren’t as good as the hype claims.

xxdesmus 09.26.07 at 10:07 pm

I completely agree with your point.

Apple preemptively attacking this guy (via his ISP) is wrong in so many ways.

They are making some steady progress towards becoming the new Evil Empire.

mercury 09.26.07 at 10:31 pm

You’re absolutely right. Apple has quickly become the hated Microsoft of the 1990s. I used to be a huge Apple and then Mac fan till the late 90s. Finally gave up (perhaps a bit early, the products got a lot better) and have never looked back. They make great products and software, no question, but their insular view on their platforms as well as the arrogance Jobs shows to anyone else’s efforts (e.g., hackers, let them go nuts! they’ll drive more takeup) keeps me away for good. I certainly hope Apple faces more competition it will help Apple and raise the general level of quality / capability in the industry.

MG Siegler 09.26.07 at 10:45 pm

Good points and I’ve experienced it first hand; I’ve gotten a takedown notice from Apple, but never from MS, yet I still love Apple and loathe MS.

I really still just think it comes down to Apple making great products. Think of it like sports: you can be the biggest jerk in the world, but at the end of the day if you’re putting up the numbers, the fans will love you.

David Mackey 09.26.07 at 11:42 pm

I’m not cheering for any of ‘em.

Chris Abell 09.26.07 at 11:48 pm

Surely you can see the difference? One is enabling people to use content they’ve legitimately bought under any circumstance they choose, while the other makes Apple’s whole business plan redundant.

I’d be delighted to see the iPhone available on any carrier, but it makes perfect sense for Jobs to fight the proliferation of hacks – especially while he’s still negotiating contracts.

maths 09.27.07 at 12:31 am

Aren’t we all naive to think in terms of right and wrong in the corporate world? All actions are judged on whether they protect and increase shareholders’ wealth and Mr Jobs has more than delivered on that – and for that, the Pied Piper is then given carte blanche in every area.
But before we throw the first stone at corporate shareholders, let’s also recognize that at the human core, we all have a little of the prostitute in us and we are all willing to give up some small part of our values and give certain parties a free ride in order to keep the shiny little gadgets coming. Society always cuts the popular guy more slack than others.
The question posed by Mathew will certainly be viewed as heretical by the faithful and indeed, I have examined the supposition that “Steve Jobs is god” here: http://www.music2dot0.com/archives/12

Raging_iPhone_Man 09.27.07 at 1:26 am

com 09.27.07 at 1:40 am


The discussion at hand is about the iPod Touch, not the iPhone.

AN 09.27.07 at 3:28 am

Chris Abell: I’m pretty sure the iPod Touch isn’t dependent on revenue from cell-phone carriers, and that unless they’re going to start requiring everyone to buy songs from iTunes, Apple’s business plan does just fine no matter how you hack your iPod, as long as you actually buy one.

Rick 09.27.07 at 5:12 am

I think you’ve just answered your own question by using DVD Jon as an example. In the latter case we are talking about a complete industry that tries to impose more and more limitations.

In the case of Apple, we are talking about a single company, trying to impose limitations on it’s own products. Unique products that get unique attention (there is no massively publicized “Nokia/Samsung/Motorola-hacking”, there aren’t entire online groups dedicated to reverse engineering other phones).

Neither does Apple have a semi-monopoly on anything like Microsoft (and the kind of social and economic power that comes with it), not even in the online music business since the vast majority of iPod owners fill it with mp3’s instead of iTunes music.

Apple does not get a free ride. All the Tech-blogs are full Apple’s latest stunts. But the reality is, Apple is not “The Man”. I can ditch my iPod, my yet-to-be-aquired-since-i-live-in-Europe iPhone and any Macs without any problems. In fact, ditching them would make live easier for me in a Microsoft dominated world.

The reality is, despite all of its success and publicity, Apple is still the opposition, the “other guy”. The fact that the more power Apple gets, the more it starts to act like “The Man” is something to be extremely critical of, but compared to the impact of DVD-encryption or Microsoft OOXML manipulations these are minor issues.

Blowing every bad move Apple makes out of proportion will only fuel Apple apologists.

ジェイソン (Jason) 09.27.07 at 5:19 am

From what we see on the interweb, since Apple is not Microsoft, they can do whatever they want and most people will not complain.

I don’t see why Apple’s products garner as much attention as they do. Sure, the machines sometimes look nice. But at the end of the day, they’re not much different than any of the competition.

It’d be nice to see Apple hire the people that take their firmware and do something better with it, rather than try and alienate their more technologically talented consumers.

John 09.27.07 at 5:44 am

A lot of us write software for a living. I know I wouldn’t appreciate people hacking into our system and publishing our source code so that anyone who wanted to could plagarise it. Everyone was up in arms when it happened to Valve, too – it’s not just Steve. There’s a difference between unlocking what’s rightfully yours and stealing someone else’s work and exposing it to their competitors.

Andrej 09.27.07 at 6:50 am

What difference? One is enabling people to use content they’ve legitimately bought under any circumstance they choose, the other is enabling people to use hardware they’ve legitimately bought under any circumstance they choose…

devolute 09.27.07 at 7:16 am

It’s because Apple are not Microsoft and because many Apple fans are ever so slightly hypocritical.

The Leave Apple Alone Guy 09.27.07 at 8:05 am

Leave Steve Jobs alone, you bastards.

He’s a Human!

matt 09.27.07 at 9:11 am

A question for a question:

Q: How does this post earn the Web2.0 tag (http://www.mathewingram.com/work/category/web20/)?
A: Because anything published after 1/1/2007 is inherently Web2.0

Mathew 09.27.07 at 9:54 am

Right you are, Matt :-)

nate 09.27.07 at 9:59 am

I will agree with someone’s comment above. I don’t think Apple is quite used to the hacker mentality. The more products they put out, the more people will want to snoop around.

That being said, these features that hackers want will be available eventually or they wouldn’t be on the devices. A little patience would do some good.

It still sucks that Apple can shut you down that easy though.

BlackTigerâ„¢ 09.27.07 at 11:19 am

Double standards… It’s normal in present days. It’s standard.

Jeremy 09.27.07 at 12:01 pm

Not that it makes it right, but I believe the reason Apple gets a free ride is because for the most part Jobs has been delivering what the people want so he has this fanboy respect thing going on that someone like Bill Gates does not.

Mehi 09.27.07 at 12:01 pm

We live in a crazy world where equations and economic models do not work as we would aspect to. We began to pay for a lot of strange and perverse things. iPod and all the Apple made “i”s are nothing more than the simple proof of human’ appetite for wicked.

When you go into a restaurant you don’t always pay for food, same applies to a 5 stars hotels. When you buy or support Apple, advanced technology is the last thing on you mind.

Sorry guys, Apple fans, but you are all in the pleasure business, it’s like paying an expensive… let’s say: girlfriend.

And in the end everything goes into your MasterCard bill, even if it’s priceless!

So, to sum it up: who else always gets a free ride?

jzilla 09.27.07 at 12:07 pm

breaking css protection without rightfully distributing copyrighted material == good.

unrightfully distributing copyrighted material == depends.

Slorn Hempy 09.27.07 at 4:18 pm

Great comment bait of a post, Mathew. How ’bout some more stuff about Steve Jobs and options? That ought to get everyone riles up!! ;)

ChooseandWatch 09.27.07 at 5:56 pm

How about the fact that Apple employs sweat shop labor for the creation of IPods. They never dismissed this, it was already proven – and Apple just pretended like it wasn’t a sweat shop and that it was a nice and fair place to work that happened to be located in Indonesia right in the sweat shop district of the ‘free-market zone’.

It was a freaking sweatshop, but people who like Apple and IPod owners want to ignore this because they think having Apple products makes this ‘unique’ and rebellious, lol quite the contrary.

And yeah when Apple used DRM everyone said nothing about it. Instead they cuss and throw out swears to every other company that was doing it, and of course somehow Apple fans seem to always like to drag Microsoft in (as if Steve Job’s vendetta against MS extends to them and that they have to carry out his vendetta for him). Just look at how they come to his defence so quickly, and they’ll deny the sweat shops as if it never happened or as if it was fully resolved – even though Nike has still yet to be forgiven, but Apple is cleared of all charges with no second degree. Also Apple gets a free ride as you said, anything they’re caught doing – like intentionally bad battery life or cracking screen on the IPhone, they are automatically excused – where another company would get grilled on it.

Apple is a crappy company that was once upon a time a legend, but now has become nothing more then a religion to some, who would probably sacrifice themselves at the altar of the IPod and Apple consumerism.

Liam Clarke-Hutchinson 09.27.07 at 7:05 pm

“there aren’t entire online groups dedicated to reverse engineering other phones”

Check out modmymoto.com sometime to see why the above statement is wrong.

Jeremy 09.27.07 at 8:11 pm

Your an idiot and your dead wrong. You probably won’t post this but the answer is simple. You are doing the traditional “apples and oranges” comparison here.

DVD John published a method of his own manufacture that allowed people to break copyright if they so chose. He did not break copyright per se himself by this act.

The guy that Apple shut down posted a public message to the effect that he was going to publicly post the entire source-code to the iPod touch on his website. Aside form being a stupid thing to do, that’s *illegal* and thus he was shut down.

He should have just kept his mouth shut.

ジェイソン (Jason) 09.27.07 at 8:38 pm

Where did you hear that Martyn (the guy that downloaded the firmware from his iPod Touch) was going to publicly release the data?

In every media report, forum, and IRC channel discussing the topic, the code was posted to a “secure part of his website and was never going to be publicly released”. Before passing judgement on another person’s intelligence, perhaps you could double-check your facts.

Level Headed Adult 09.27.07 at 8:46 pm

Hmm, crazy. You mean that damn Apple is trying to protect their copyrighted material and intellectual property? How dare them!

Get a clue, kids, you’re the one’s who clicked “Agree”, as did I, and I don’t have a problem with it whatsoever. If you bought an iPod Touch, or an iPhone for that matter, and are crying about Apple, then you’re simply a hypocrite. Read and learn people.

sammy colbert 09.27.07 at 8:48 pm

Of course its ridiculous that Apple tries to stick its finger in this dike. If they want control, then they should build hacker free software, otherwise leave the hackers alone, it just creates a large Apple community. (btw, Microsoft isn’t this evil when it comes to the hacker community).

-sammy / my touch http://personafile.com/Apple-iPod-touch-16GB-3-500-Songs-MA627LLA-P885909100204.htm

Keith 09.27.07 at 8:50 pm

the OSS community is rapidly loosing my respect.

On one hand the decry anyone who would “steal” GPL code and use it in commercial products without releasing the source, but on the other see nothing wrong with stealing the code/work of others.

There are really simple concepts here.
If you do not like the product or the company, then do not buy their products. I don’t think it can get any simpler than that.

Products are sold to the public with terms and conditions. If you do not like these you have the FREEDOM not to buy that product and buy something else. You do NOT have the right to buy the product then say I don’t like those terms and conditions and then FORCE your views back on the company who I am sure you will not inform nor give them any choice as to the acceptability of those changes in TOC.

Anthony R. 09.27.07 at 9:05 pm

Why does Apple get a free ride? Because he’s Steve Jobs bitch. Now who the hell are you?

petieg 09.27.07 at 9:07 pm

Maybe at&t owned the upstream connection of the ISPs connection to the ‘net ?!!??

maths 09.27.07 at 9:31 pm

Slorn Hempy,
I have conjured up an explanation of why Steve Jobs has a teflon-like relationship with the options affair here: http://www.music2dot0.com/archives/12

john 09.27.07 at 10:15 pm

wholeheartedly agree. there’s no denying that its taboo to question Apple’s credibility but more and more people seem to be coming out and realizing that there’s nothing inherently special about Jobs and Co.

HiFi613 09.27.07 at 10:37 pm

Flipside of a story… Apple does nothing about hackers on the iPod… which contains the Wi-Fi iTunes store.. hackers work their magic and who knows what kind of damage ($$ or otherwise) they could do.. then Apple is at fault for not maintaining a secure platform.

Just a thought.

Ian Eisenberg 09.27.07 at 10:44 pm

Yes you are right, Apple as a publicly traded company should abrogate all responsibility to it’s shareholders and just let anyone do whatever they want with it’s code. Forget IP and the fact that legally Apple has to issue takedown orders to protects it’s copyright for current issues as well as in the future.
Apple doesn’t get a “free ride”, in fact Apple gets just as much or more bad press (most of it bogus) from tech journalists who either troll for hits or are just plain clueless.
From my point of view MS seems to get a bigger free ride (with the exception of all the Vista reviews) since it’s software is so crufty and mediocre.

JTD 09.27.07 at 10:49 pm

It’s amazing. I’ve literally heard people say “serves him right for trying to hack his iPod.” WHAT.

Apple, please cut the crap and stop attacking the technical users who want so badly to be able to evangelize your products and platforms.

KG 09.27.07 at 10:59 pm

You know what’s crazy!!!!

The Hacking that “Apple Hackers” want to do is all just to better the product. So I really don’t know why Steve would do this…. Unless there’s something in the iTouch’s OS that’s for a future awesome Feature he doesn’t want anyone to know about….. Or what about the idea of Steve not wanting someone to take the Algorithum for the whole iPhone / iTouch Keyboard (where it guesses the next letter you’ll press) or something like that. I mean come on they didn’t do anything for when they hacked the Apple TV.

I don’t think it’s totally right that Apple stopped this but I’m sure it’s another Apple thing to do to keep their secrets for the future from being leaked. Maybe!!! I hope so!!!

Steve Jobs 09.27.07 at 10:59 pm



Keith 09.27.07 at 11:01 pm

Hacking evangelising, in fact the 2 concepts couldn’t be much further apart.

Trying to upload the code in it is much more like someone stealing all of your house contents, giving them to people as proof you are a nice guy.

Yes, serves him right and I hope Apple sues the shit out of him.

Dont like the Company, Don’t like the product, Dont like the TOC then Dont buy the product.

steve 09.27.07 at 11:16 pm

I used to own an imac and an ipod. Both had severe “quality issues.”

I now own a Gateway and a Creative Zen. They do not have “quality issues,” i.e. they have not broken in the three years I have had then.

That’s enough for me.

Dennis 09.27.07 at 11:22 pm

I think hate is normal. It’s easier to hate anyone, especially big companies like Apple, Starbucks and Microsoft. I would say it’s the big-bad-wolf mentality. Anything big is bad….

For now, everyone loves the new growing companies like Facebook, Youtube and Myspace. But believe me if those sites become immensely popular, this love too shall pass -and they will be hated like every big company is hated. It’s simply human nature–and people are never really every contented about anything in general.

I don’t idolize Apple products; there are good ones as there are bad ones–and I don’t have any, except tha iTunes. My take on this is that if they are not killing me, I really don’t care. There are more things to worry about.

Dennis 09.27.07 at 11:26 pm

To add to my comment, I think we are given free will in this world–and you can choose to use it or not. You can choose to buy an iPhone or not. I think it’s as simple as that.

Nature Wallpaper 09.27.07 at 11:48 pm

Are you kidding me, he actually did this! uhm where are the authorities! Someone…. :(

Kiran 09.28.07 at 12:01 am

I still can’t believe that Apple sniffed the iPod Touch before even it was completely uploaded!! Anyways, he must have easily uploaded it from his friend’s place or via a flash drive may be!! Apple can’t lock us from using our expensive gadgets, cmon Apple they aren’t your devices anymore, just provide support when needed, don’t invest in anti-hacking techniques while u can use it for product R&D!!

Pipjoint 09.28.07 at 12:35 am

Steve Jobs is a mortal. Apple is a company concerned as all companies are, with profit. If there is disappointment it is only because we are guilty of idolizing Mr. Jobs and demonizing Mr. Gates. Idolotry never leads to anything but disappointment. I will continue to purchase prodcuts based on my desires and the best choices. Apple is not a god and we are fools to think so.

Noshi 09.28.07 at 3:16 am

God forbid we have the option to use Windows Media Player or other players cause well… iTunes sucks balls… I will never buy another Apple product in my life… UNLESS IT’S BEEN HACKED!

JTD 09.28.07 at 4:08 am


You fail at paying attention.

Hackers and geeks evangelize the product when they find it to be useful and well-designed. People trust geeks to recommend technology because they know they know what they’re talking about. This is not a complicated equation. Apple stomps all over their own supporters at their own peril.

“Trying to upload the code in it is much more like someone stealing all of your house contents, giving them to people as proof you are a nice guy.”

What the hell are you talking about? It was being put on a private server so his fellow devs could work on it.

“Dont like the Company, Don’t like the product, Dont like the TOC then Dont buy the product.”

So what happens? Let’s suppose everyone makes their displeasure known by not buying the product. Does Apple reach the conclusion that they need to be more open with it? No. They reach the conclusion that the entire idea was a failure and abandon the product line. Then no one is happy and no one can have what they need.

fell_away 09.28.07 at 6:54 am

Finally someone speaks up! Even though Apple gave me my $100 iPhone credit, I’m still not a fan of their policies. [ They paid for my silence ;) ]

rocco 09.28.07 at 8:08 am

“there aren’t entire online groups dedicated to reverse engineering other phones”

maybe because other phones OSes developers provide a SDK?

ERM 09.28.07 at 8:57 am

I have no idea what their problem is. Hacking yields more 3rd party apps which yields more customers. Or do they like being the little guy so much that they hate customers?

Thought 09.28.07 at 9:11 am

Why is there so much emotion injected into these stories? It’s quite simple – it’s a game of “cat and mouse” – as Steve Jobs recently said at the UK release of the iPhone. In this case, the “hacker” in question should have kept his mouth shut about his progress and his intent until the code had successfully propagated to a number of websites or into the torrent space. I am/was pretty impressed with the AwkwardTV approach – which was to sure the knowledge of hacking the AppleTV rather than real bits. This proved to avoid legal hassles for the website and allowed individuals to hack up their own systems to their hearts’ content.

Dennis 09.28.07 at 10:29 am

In this particular instance, Apple was doing exactly what I’d expect any company to do. This wasn’t DVD Jon posting a hack of his own creation, or the results of real reverse engineering (e.g. work-alike code). This was someone who was going to post unmodified code created by Apple directly — it’s exactly like posting a full copy of Mac OS X, which I would think most people would realize is well within Apple’s rights to got after.

Tom Boucher 09.28.07 at 11:36 am

So by your logic if someone found the source code to OS X and posted it to the web (secure or not) for other people to get access too and Apple issued a take down notice that’s evil empire activity as well?

That’s pretty much what was done with the iPod Touch firmware.

Mathew 09.28.07 at 11:45 am

I’d just like to point out that this is nothing like uploading the entire source code for OS X to a public website — what Martyn was doing (as I understand it) was uploading to a secure server some of the code that was stored in the flash memory on the device, which is not even close to being the entire source code for the operation of the iTouch.

Morgan 09.28.07 at 5:29 pm

He’s Matthrew Ingram and I’m pretty sure that he writes for the Globe and Mail, oh snap beotch!

Jason 09.29.07 at 12:20 am

@Tom Boucher…


There you go. :)

Necol 09.29.07 at 1:01 pm

It’s acting like Microsoft and Wal-Mart, but everyone supports it’s strategy & tactics because it’s been the “underdog” for so many years and built a grass-roots ‘cult’ure — brainwashed by Steve Jobs.

hmmm…. the name of a guy in Texas (David) rings a bell.

LOL. It’s just really — REALLY — funny to watch.

Rick Turtle 10.01.07 at 5:18 am

You’re not seeing an outcry against this because the majority of Apple users are soccer moms, stoned college kids, artsy fartsy hippies and other types that don’t pay attention nor give a shit about “hacking the itouch.”

Personally, I feel apple computers are made and best suited for people who don’t want to bother with what is going on “behind the scenes,” and never really wonder if they can make the thing do something out of the ordinary/something it wasn’t originally intended to (ie: improvements/hacking).

Apple makes boatloads of money off of these people because these are people who just want their stuff to work.

Cheryl's Office 12.22.07 at 5:54 pm

I’m not sure why I would want to risk buying a iPod touch or iPhone that has been hacked our unlocked. I guess those that do are buying something they can characterize as unique.

I’ll just keep my iPod touch an original and ordinary.

Apple iPod touch

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