Earlier this week, I wrote about a lawyer in Florida suing Apple for millions because he couldn’t be bothered to figure out how iTunes works. Little did I know that this wasn’t the craziest law suit brought by a lawyer against Apple.
A tipster pointed us to a 50-page complaint filed in federal court last month seeking damages and injunctive relief against Apple for making devices that can display porn, or as the rest of us call it, the Internet. The complaint gracefully skips from pop psychology, to comparing porn to handguns, to appeals to the divine rule of the Almighty.
This wasn’t the best week for Apple in the courtroom, but at least the in-house lawyers have this suit to look forward to defending…
The plaintiff, Chris Sevier, is an attorney in Nashville. A news report of his arrest last month on unrelated charges of stalking country music star John Rich (the guy whose obnoxious song mars my weekly viewing of College GameDay) states that Sevier’s 36, though his Model Mayhem bio says he’s 26. For someone mad about porn on the Internet, he’s already adopted its first cardinal rule: models always lie about their age.
Sevier’s complaint makes a simple request: Apple should sell all products with an installed filter blocking all Internet porn. If the buyer, over the age of 18, wishes to unlock the Internet, he or she is free to contact Apple, sign a form acknowledging the ills of pornography, and receive a code to remove the filter. Sevier argues that the burden must be shifted from parents to the manufacturer to sell a locked device. That sounds like a fair enough, even laudable goal. But Sevier also wants these filters installed lest the responsibility be up to *shudder* individuals exercising self-control.
The complaint describes some of the societal harm porn causes, such as “lead[ing] to American girls traveling abroad to be abducted and cast into sex trafficking.” Someone was watching Taken while drafting this complaint. But Sevier has also suffered personal harm:
The Plaintiff is a victim of Apple’s product that was sold to him without any warning of the damage the pornography causes. “But for” the Plaintiff’s use of the Apple product, the quality of the Plaintiff’s life would have been much better and injury would have been avoided. The Plaintiff sustained these unwarranted damages in the course of using Apple’s product as designed. Apple’s product was not adequately equipped with safety features that would have otherwise blocked unwarranted intrusions of pornographic content that systematically poisoned his life.
Sevier got his J.D. at Vanderbilt Law, and perhaps they should revisit the role Palsgraf plays in their 1L Torts lectures. Based on the tale outlined, there are a few intervening acts between Apple building a web-ready computer and Sevier joining Adult Friend Finder. This is not to deny that sex can have addictive qualities, but just as drug and alcohol rehab focus on individuals facing up to their personal role in facilitating their disease, Sevier might want to look in the mirror before blaming Apple.
But Sevier maintains the proximate cause is Apple’s browser and an honest spelling error:
In using safari, the Plaintiff accidentally misspelled “facebook.com” which lead him to “fuckbook.com” and a host of web sites that caused him to see pornographic images that appealed to his biological sensibilities as a male and lead to an unwanted addiction with adverse consequences.
I’m incredulous. But in fairness to Sevier, the complaint is so riddled with spelling and grammatical errors (including a few in that block quote) that maybe typing just isn’t his thing. I, however, posit that he made all these mistakes intentionally to bolster the credibility of this argument. Well played, sir.
Apple basically should have known better:
As human beings themselves, Apple employees know that a man is born full of harmonies and attacked to by women engaging in sexual acts with the intent to cause vicarious arousal.
I’m guessing he meant “hormones.” Unless he was making a very highbrow reference to the Temptations.
The complaint, brilliantly, alleges “Unfair Competition” — between hot, hot porn actresses and Sevier’s wife:
UNFAIR COMPETITION AND INTERFERENCE OF THE MARITAL CONTRACT: The Plaintiff became totally out of synch in his romantic relationship with his wife, which was a consequence of his use of his Apple product. The Plaintiff began desiring, younger more beautiful girls featured in porn videos than his wife, who was no longer 21. His failed marriage caused the Plaintiff to experience emotional distress to the point of hospitalization. The Plaintiff could no longer tell the difference between internet pornography and tangible intercourse due to the content he accessed through the Apple products, which failed to provide him with warnings of the dangers of online pornography whatsoever.
“Who was no longer 21.” No further comment, that was just an awesome sentence.
The best part of his suggested solution to America’s online porn addiction is that it will help out businesses. Porn businesses:
THE PLAINTIFF’S SUGGESTION HELPS THE PORN ECONOMY: For the proponents of the bricks and mortar pornography industry, the Plaintiffs reasonable request here supports their cause. Forcing Apple to install preset porn filtering software could have a positive financial impact on the traditional porn trade. The porn industry has the same regulatory and supply and demand problems that the music business and print media does, as a consequence of the free flow of information online. There is so much free porn on the internet that ultimately its going to be difficult for porn providers to rely on the income generated from their work to continue to make a living….
...unregulated internet porn is hurting brick and mortar or “mom and pop” porn shops. This is no different than how illegal downloading of musical content and movie content has caused the collapse of traditional record stores and video rental entities, such as block buster.
First of all, “mom and pop” porn shops is going in the pantheon of greatest phrases in a legal complaint. Second, there’s something admirable about Sevier’s commitment to professional porn. As Jackie Treehorn put it, “standards have fallen in adult entertainment.” Modern porn viewers constantly find themselves asking, “but why was she ordering a pizza?”
In the end, the complaint is not just about protecting kids and even protecting Sevier from his interest in the naked ladies, but a jeremiad against the modern age:
In the 1950s, before there was in the internet and the ACLU, we had prayer in school, males were not flaming out academically, there was no need for viagra commercials to clog up our televisions late at not, homosexuals were substantially fewer in number, sex trafficking was virtually nonexistent, prostitution was way down, and child porn was unheard of. Why are things different – easily accessible pornography accessible through high speed internet and devices like Apple products is one contributing factor in that complex answer.
Except the ACLU was alive and active in the 1950s, school prayer was never as widespread as its advocates suggest, men still got Fs, gay folks were still there (just closeted), America had just completed a war against Germany and Japan (both of whom engaged in large-scale sex trafficking, e.g., the Joy Division without Ian Curtis), prostitution was rampant (as Don Draper’s childhood flashbacks attest), and child pornography and pedophilia persisted as the Catholic Church scandals are bringing to light. There just was no golden age, certainly not in the 1950s that Sevier longs for, yet never personally saw, regardless of which age he admits to being.
There’s nothing really wrong with the suggestion that Apple should default to stronger parental controls. There’s a logic to the idea that it’s easier for parents to disengage a lock than to install one. However, implementing the procedural hurdles Sevier seeks for the sake of protecting him from himself crosses into a disciplinary nanny state.
But, maybe he’s into that.
The full 50-page complaint is reproduced below. If you can suffer through the typos, there are many more gems, including an explanation of Apple’s role in creating the proliferation of male enhancement drug commercials and how Sevier knows what women really want. Enjoy!