Circle through Cupertino’s 1 Infinite Loop in the wee hours of the morning and you’ll find lights burning brightly in the quarters of the company’s legal team. What with wrangles with a French government determined to undress Apple’s FairPlay digital rights management scheme, the Beatles’ Apple Corp., and attorneys looking to make a buck from allegedly too-loud iPods, it won’t be long before we see Nancy Heinen patrolling De Anza Blvd. encased in a sandwich board reading “U cn gt a hi pying jb as a lyr. Nquir here!”
Those who look fondly upon Apple may consider it unfair that their favorite technology company must suffer what some deem to be frivolous legal travails. Take heart, I say. Attracting this sort of Microsoft-like attention is nothing less than a testament to Apple’s success.
Your more discerning brand of buzzard favors the deer over the dormouse.
Still, despite enjoying the success that attracts this sort of attention, Apple may feel somewhat set upon. In part, I agree. Going head to toe, I think…
The French thing
I’ve stated my views on a couple of occasions. To restate, the French can decide how they want digital music and the rights associated with it to work in their country and Apple can choose to stay or leave. My money’s on Apple leaving not out of concern for piracy but to avoid opening the whole interoperability can of worms. That day’s coming, but Apple will forestall it as long as possible.
Apple v. Apple
I realize that a lot of people characterize the battle between the two Apples as a cash cow for the Beatles’ Apple Corp.—a source of ready revenue when Ringo needs a new pair of boots. Much has been made of the ludicrousness of anyone confusing Apple Corp. with Apple Computer. But, in my view, that’s not the issue.
At issue is not the fairness of such a comparison but rather the validity and meaning of an agreement signed by both parties in 1991. As the result of a 1989 lawsuit (in which Apple Computer paid a $26.5 million settlement), Macintosh computers could play music but Apple Computer agreed to not sell music “on physical media… such as compact discs.” Apple Computer now claims that it’s living within the letter of the agreement because it’s selling music via online data transfer rather than on physical media.
My opinion: Apple Computer gets smoked on this one. The intent of the agreement is that Apple Computer not sell music. The music exists on a physical media—Apple’s iTunes servers—and winds up on physical media—your computer and iPod’s hard drive (and a CD if you burn a music disc). I think Apple Computer is going to have a hard time convincing the judge that it’s responsible only for the music when it’s in its ethereal state.
Some have suggested that the solution to these ongoing battles is for Apple Computer to buy Apple Corp. outright. If you’ve read one of the more comprehensive Beatle biographies you understand that all-that-is-Apple-Corp. is a legal morass of nightmarish proportions—the Fab Four and their representatives spent more time in court than the boys spent making records at Abbey Road. Apple Computer would have better luck purchasing the British Isles and stumbling upon Apple Corp. while rummaging through its contents.
The ears have had it
And finally, Apple releases an update to the iPod that allows users to voluntarily put a volume cap on their (or their kids’) 5G and nano iPods. Good for them! iPods can get loud when cranked up and I like the feature not only because it will give me the option to tone down my daughter’s headphones (when I allow her to actually use the things), but also because I find it convenient to set the volume at about a three-quarters “sweet spot” and whirl my iPod all the way up without fear of blowing out what’s left of my ears.
Of course attorneys engaged in a class-action lawsuit over Apple’s failure to properly protect users from excess volume take this as a sure sign of Apple’s culpability.
Said legal beagles may have a difficult time proving that Apple was absolutely cavalier about the effects of high volume on one’s listening organs given that page 61 of the iPod Features Guide reads:
Set your iPod volume to a safe level. If you experience ringing in your ears, reduce the volume or discontinue use of your iPod.
Warning: Permanent hearing loss may occur if earbuds or headphones are used at high volume. You can adapt over time to a higher volume of sound that may sound normal but can be damaging to your hearing. If you experience ringing in your ears or muffled speech, stop listening and have your hearing checked. The louder the volume, the less time is required before your hearing could be affected. Hearing experts suggest that to protect your hearing:
• Limit the amount of time you use earbuds or headphones at high volume.
• Avoid turning up the volume to block out noisy surroundings.
• Turn the volume down if you can’t hear people speaking near you.
Generally I try to adopt a more international attitude about these sorts of obvious risks.
Specifically, if you travel around New Zealand or Australia (or, I suppose, live there) you’ll find that a lot of motels provide a trampoline as an amenity for entertaining the kids. In my visits I noticed not a single one that included a netted safety barrier around the outside. Many of these bouncy diversions were placed on concrete slabs.
Warning signs? Not a one.
And good on the Kiwis and Aussies for having a measure of sense (and suggesting, through the lack of signage, that I have some as well). In their way they are saying,
“Before you is a device that, with little effort on your part, will propel you into the air. Surrounding that device is an unforgiving surface. We trust that you comprehend the rudiments of gravity and are confident enough in your abilities to hop up and down in a straight line. Should you fail to do so, it’s on your head, mate. Don’t come crying to us.”
Were that we in the States possessed such common sense.