We’ve written before about the preposterous concept of asserting that stuff you buy and put into the trunk of your car and stick in a closet at home is really just a “license” to use that stuff. Well, here‘s something even “better” — and while it may make users fume, it may be completely legal, and it doesn’t require judges, statutory damages or even any kinds of lawyers to work:
Apple apparently can disable App Store software remotely on your iPhone 3G. The iPhone calls home and poof the application is nuked.
Needless to say that this has caused a bit of a blog ruckus (Techmeme). MacRumors notes that Apple has come under fire for removing App Store software without notification and the ability to simply deauthorize apps already installed on an iPhone is worrisome. iPhone Atlas points out that Jonathan Zdziarski found Apple’s blacklist in a forensic analysis of the iPhone 3G.
Yeahbut. We can understand why zap-ees would find this annoying, though we kind of like the self-help aspect of it. From a DRM prospective, though, it’s absolutely progressive. Or, alternatively, intolerably regressive. One of those things.
The obvious questions, of course, will come up when someone, or more likely a class of someones, sues Apple for the tort of wrongful nuking. Will that sound in breach of warranty? Breach of contract? Some new and exciting cause of action? Either way, of course, the lawyers win. That’s what IP is all about, right? (Hat tip to Instapundit.)
2 Replies to “The ultimate license”
I am familiar with a very expensive commercial product which its manufacturer can send commands that can do anything from reset user-controlled settings to completely disable the device. I once asked some of the manufacturer’s employees if they had ever thought of doing this to a device which hadn’t been paid for or whose owner otherwise owed them money. The light of dawning comprehension was nigh-blinding. (Up until then they’d used it on products which had been reported stolen.)
I then hastily pointed out that they really should talk to a lawyer familiar with UCC law, etc, before doing it. It certainly was an interesting question to consider. Suppose the device itself was paid for, but they were owed money for its operation? Would disabling it completely be a breach of contract? Trespass to chattels? Might it even be some kind of creatively-defined theft? Could creative wording of contracts of sale and operation overcome these problems? (I think so, but we wouldn’t actually know until a court of last resort considered the matter.)
Now I think about it, I’m familiar with at least two – I understand some very high-end automobiles can do the same thing. And same upside and downside – how convenient would it be if a repo man could order the car to tell him where it is and then shut itself off while he comes to get it? How potentially tortious if he does this while the car’s in the middle of the Mojave?
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