September 28, 2007

Apple owns you

It’s an adage of the internet world that if you compare something to the Nazis, then your argument is defeated.

So I won’t. But…

Apple have issued a compulsory update to their iPhones which means that anyone who’s tried using the device on a phone network other than AT&T, will now find the iPhone is basically dead. Permanently.

If this isn’t the most authoritarian technology company in the world, then who is?

“Microsoft” – I hear you shout!

Well, not really. I don’t think they’ve ever charged someone £900 per year for a product which you can’t mess around with.

Most companies have something called a ‘EULA’ – or End User Licensing Agreement – which most people have traditionally ignored.

These put restrictions on what people can do with a product, such as a computer game. They’re often disregarded by modders and people who play games on friends’ machines.

I can’t think of an example of a hardware company using the EULA in such a measly way as Apple are doing.

And as every device on the planet (including, maybe one day, your own body) becomes connected to the net, what other products could be shut down once you play around with them? Perhaps Olympic athletes should have a chip in them that injects them with lactic acid if it detects an illegal drug?

So do you own an iPod or iPhone? Or do they own you?

P.S. I don’t own an iPhone.

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. It’s quite a complex situation. I imagine it’s a mixture of things including:

    1) Apple has entered into contracts with network providers to limit the hardware to certain providers.

    2) The people who buy the phone can only buy it as part of a contract with those providers in which they buyer pays for the phone during the (presumably) 18-month term of that contract and that until you have fully paid for the phone you do not really own it (just throwing a guess here) and are therefore subject to limitations on what you can and can’t do with the phone.

    3) You enter into all sorts of agreements when you buy and/or use these things. I have no idea what would be considered legally binding and I’m not even sure if such an issue (with regards to this specific behaviour) has ever really been decided on in legislation/court but you’d probably need a lot of money to go and sue apple (and perhaps O2) over the blocking of your phone because you had it tinkered with.

    Out of interest, does the update actually kill all the features of the phone as opposed to just the usage of it as a phone.

    01 Oct 2007, 18:33

  2. Jee

    I think Mr Gruber puts it best:

    and if you choose to administer this pill to your hacked-to-produce-cheese cow, it does not amount to the purveyor of said cow coming into your barn and killing it. It amounts to you killing your cow.

    16 Oct 2007, 23:44

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