The founder of a wiki site that attracted the force of Apple’s legal team hopes that his stand against Apple will create a precedent that will encourage online freedom in the future.
The arguments started last year when Apple’s lawyers accused an open source effort to help iPods and iPhones work with software other than Apple's iTunes of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) anti-circumvention provisions. Last November Apple's lawyers demanded that the Bluewiki , site remove the project, called iPodhash.
In April this year the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the San Francisco law firm Keker & Van Nest sued Apple on behalf of Bluwiki, asking a court to reject Apple's claims and allow Bluwiki to restore the discussions.
This case was successful with Apple announcing that it has withdrawn its cease-and-desist demands.
Bluwiki’s creator Sam Odio said his immediate reaction to Apple dropping its case was one of relief.
“As the owner of a non-commercial wiki, I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of a prolonged legal battle,” he said.
“We had all hoped that this ‘stand’ against Apple would create a precedent that would support publishers in the future.”
Odio said he expects to complete some DMCA paperwork in the next month and then restore the removed pages.
“We have no idea if the community will return though,” he said.
Last November, the iPodhash project author outlined several reasons why the project was not illegal.
“The iTunesDB [database] does not fall under the category of copyrighted material. The iPod hash protects the database. A database is not copyrighted information. It is created on the user’s iPhone/iPod by iTunes, and iTunes adds this hash to make sure that no other application can modify the database, but that does not make the "database" a copyrighted material,” he wrote.
“The hash protects the database from writing, so that third party applications can still read the database in the presence of this hash. DRM [Digital Rights Management] schemes usually prevent reading by third party applications. Hence this scheme does not fall under DRM protection.”
The author also pointed out that DMCA does not outlaw dissemination of information that could lead to circumvention.
“[Finally] we are doing this for interoperability with other platforms (such as Linux) and DMCA explicitly allows reverse engineering for compatibility purposes, hence I believe that there is nothing illegal about the project.”
With the Apple battle out of his way, Odio now has more time to pursue his other projects, many of which, like Bluwiki are supported by his own successful start up company, Odioworks. The company makes most of its revenue through a currency exchange business but also offers a range of other technology-based services.
The projects that Odio intends to focus on for now are photo-sharing site, Divvyshot and the further development of Hacker House, which organises houses for California-bound coders to live and work in.
It seems the 25 year-old Odio has made a living out of Linux, hacking and social networking, but he disagrees, pointing out that he is yet to make any money from Bluwiki.
He has, however, founded a successful start up that funds his various open source, social networking and hacking projects - something many would envy. Odio’s advice to others wanting to stake similar paths is that it is not easy. Besides the fact that you may find yourself occasionally defending legal battles, establishing your own business (and projects) is a lot of work.
“Be prepared for a long, hard road. Success in start ups rarely comes easily,” he said.