from the your-periodic-friendly-reminder-that-Apple-will-tell-YOU-what-you-like dept
Apple is still one of the most desirable brands in the world, no doubt largely due to the company's fierce protection of that brand. In addition to periodic bouts of trademark bullying, it has also displayed an alarming antipathy towards developers who stray over the boundaries of what it considers to be acceptable.
Its tight control over the content of apps offered on its platform is notorious. Some see this as nothing more than excessively good quality control. Others see it as something far more arbitrary -- apps removed simply because someone at Apple didn't like them.
This attitude extends far beyond the boundaries of the iTunes app store, as one developer found out.
A website that helped users locate Apple stores with iPhones and iPads available for sale has shut down its service after being hit with a notice alleging that it violated Apple.com's terms of service.First, just for clarification, what Tikotzky received was not a DMCA notice. It's simply a "takedown notice" issued by Apple's legal team asking him to take down his site.
Apple-Tracker.com and iphone-check.herokuapp.com examined publicly available inventory information from Apple.com and tried to make it easier for people to navigate. The service gained some attention, with articles in the Los Angeles Times and other news sites.
The site now shows a message from developer Mordy Tikotzky saying, "I've decided to turn off the site. I'm not doing this because I want to, but rather because I received a DMCA takedown notice from Apple. I'm not really interested in picking a fight with apple so..... I guess it time to just say good bye." On Twitter, Tikotzky wrote, "It might be legal but I don't have the resources to fight with Apple."
But why would Apple take his site down? Its sole purpose was to help potential customers find the exact phone or tablet they were looking for by aggregating item availability from all the stores in a certain zip code. Yes, Apple's own site contains a search function but it doesn't do what Tikotzky's site did. Apple will allow you to search for one item (16Gb iPad Air) and list stores where it's available. Tikotzky's apple-tracker did this better. It provided a table of all available models and lit up with an easy-to-see green if it was available at a certain store.
To achieve this using Apple's site, a person would have to run multiple searches and keep track of which one had what models. Titkotzky's automated this -- which is likely what Apple determined to be a violation of its TOS. Here's the relevant part of the TOS as quoted in the takedown letter.
Your Use of the Site. You may not use any “deep-link”, “page-scrape”, “robot”, “spider” or other automatic device, program, algorithm or methodology, or any similar or equivalent manual process, to access, acquire, copy or monitor any portion of the Site or any Content, or in any way reproduce or circumvent the navigational structure or presentation of the Site or any Content, to obtain or attempt to obtain any materials, documents or information through any means not purposely made available through the Site. Apple reserves the right to bar any such activity.Apple doesn't want you to do much with its site. And this very restrictive wording is what turns handy tools into "violations" and "circumventing the navigational structure" into an unacceptable situation, according to Apple. (Not only that, but if so inclined, someone could probably push for charges under the CFAA, which views this sort of "circumvention" as a crime.)
All this does is maintain the status quo. Do not screw with Apple's stuff. If it wanted a handy aggregation tool, it presumably would have built it itself and covered it in tastefully rounded corners and pleasing color gradients. Tikotzky's tracker may have increased sales, but it ultimately doesn't matter, not when there's turf to protect.
People are constantly searching for ways to improve the services they use, but they're running head on into companies like Apple and Craigslist who take the stance that the customer will get what's provided by the company, instead of what they actually want. It's unfortunate, but for some, protecting the brand is more important than serving those purchasing their products.