Worldwide Developer Copyright

There were a lot of new announcements in the Apple WWDC keynote. Some of them may have surprising legal implications. I’ve been tweeting about them today, and thought I’d pull together some of the issues for handy reference:

  • AirDrop will create fully encrypted local peer-to-peer networks over WiFi:

    Just click the AirDrop icon in the Finder sidebar, and your Mac automatically discovers other AirDrop users within about 30 feet of you. To share a file, simply drag it to someone’s name. Once accepted, the fully encrypted file transfers directly to that person’s Downloads folder.

    This is going to be yet another darknet vector. Imagine walking into a cafe, browsing someone else’s iTunes library, asking them for one of their albums, and getting it via AirDrop—all without knowing whose computer yours is interacting with. Sony’s rule on dual use technologies almost certainly absolves Apple of liability from any resulting infringement. Instead, this is yet another example of how technological changes are increasing the velocity with which media circulate, regardless of what copyright law may have to say about it.

  • Desktop Safari has had Reader for a while; now iOS Safari will get it too. Tap a button to remove ads and depaginates articles spread across multiple web pages. Given higher mobile latencies and small screens, this feature is going to get very heavy use. I predict that some ad-rich websites are going to be very annoyed as their pageviews drop. Will they argue that users are violating terms of service, and will any of them sue Apple for tortious interference with contract? Stay tuned …

  • iTunes Match is great, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish, but think for a moment about the privacy implications of asking Apple to scan your entire music library and report back on it to the Apple mothership. Right now, Genius scans your collection and reports back, but all that information is “stored anonymously.” Anonymity doesn’t work if the point is to push out actual music files to all of your devices. Similarly, this goes beyond other cloud services in that you’re not uploading specific chosen files; iTunes Match is designed to scan your entire music collection, no matter how gigantic.

    Of course, with good data collection practices and a good privacy policy, this isn’t too worrisome. But to put a point on why one might fret, imagine a copyright owner — a small music label, say — looking to engage in shotgun subpoena litigation. One source of file-shared music is the DRM-free downloads offered by Apple and Amazon. Some of those tracks, though, contain identifying watermarks. Apple could look for those watermarks, and alert the copyright owner whenever it found one that was obviously the result of file-sharing — for example, if more than ten different users had the same track with the same watermark.

    Would Apple do that? Probably not voluntarily. It would be disastrous for Apple’s image, and would probably kill iTunes Match in the marketplace. But I can imagine the lawsuit a copyright owner might put together to force Apple to rat out its users. Apple’s defense, presumably, would be that it is not itself liable as a copyright infringer, and that as the non-party target of a subpoena, requiring it to add a complicated and privacy-intrusive feature to iTunes Match would be the very definition of “unduly burdensome.” But still, the possibility of such a suit is not so obviously absurd that I am prepared to dismiss it out of hand. I’m going to be reading the iCloud privacy policy very closely.

So there you have it: a complete final exam for a digital copyright course. Thank you, Steve, for keeping my professional life interesting.

As a data point, has been allowing users to upload this information to a central repository since ~2004. So far, none of these predictions have come to pass.

Great wrap up of features. My first thought when listening to the presentation was, “No thanks.”, I don’t need any of the features described and the way I work is simple; if I don’t use a service it is off plus its daemon is unloaded if it is running, May be interesting to see how unloaded tasks behave. AirDrop could be useful but I have no reason to use it.

I agree, Match could get scary if it is not already setup with report to ISP if Match finds a suspect music file. The whole iCloud feature is a bit unnerving and I would have to give up iTunes 9 which works fine by me.


Correction: 17:24 UTC

Strike: report to ISP

Should be: report to copyright holder


Imagine walking into a cafe, browsing someone else’s iTunes library, asking them for one of their albums, and getting it via AirDrop—all without knowing whose computer yours is interacting with.

I’m not seeing how this could happen. If you’re in a cafe, the only way you can see someone’s iTunes Library is if they are sharing it on the local network without a password. But that does happen - you can see and play music from such shared libraries, but you can’t copy anything from them. But just because you can see their iTunes Library doesn’t mean you can communicate with them in any way, or even know who in the cafe is sharing. Obviously, you could walk up to everyone with a computer open and ask, but the social interaction seems sketchy.

“Hi, I was able to see all the music in your copy of iTunes because you’re sharing it on the network, and I’d really like a copy of that U2 album. Could you give it to me via AirDrop? I’m Joe in your sidebar.”

It’s just not going to happen - it violates too many conventions about how strangers interact in the real world.

cheers… -Adam

Post a comment

You can use HTML style tags or Markdown.

Comment Preview: