O'Grady's PowerPage » Legal

Suburban Philadelphia School District Denies Accusation of Spying on Students with MacBook Cameras

Posted by:
Date: Friday, February 19th, 2010, 05:18
Category: Legal, MacBook, News

143393-09macbook386_original

A suburban Philadelphia school district has denied it spied on students by remotely activating the cameras on their school-issued MacBook notebooks.

Per Macworld UK, in a statement released late on Thursday, Christopher McGinley, the superintendent of Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pa., admitted that the MacBooks’ cameras could be turned on without the user’s knowledge, but said that the functionality was part of a security feature.

“Laptops are a frequent target for theft in schools and off-school property,” said McGinley. “The security feature was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student.” When switched on, the feature was limited to taking snapshots of whomever was using the notebook and capturing the computer’s current screen.

Laptop cameras have only been activated for that purpose, McGinley continued. “The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever,” he said.

This Tuesday, a high school student and his parents sued the district, claiming that the student’s MacBook had been used to spy on him in his home. According to the lawsuit, Michael and Holly Robbins of Penn Valley, Pa., said they first found out about the alleged spying last November after their son Blake was accused by a Harriton High School official of “improper behavior in his home” and shown a photograph taken by his laptop.

Doug Young, a spokesman for the school district, declined to answer questions as to whether Blake Robbins’ computer camera had been activated, and if so, under what circumstances. “I can’t speak to the lawsuit,” Young said.

The lawsuit speaks for itself, said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “This is utterly shocking, and a blatant violation of [the students'] constitutional rights,” Bankston said Thursday, citing the Fourth Amendment after reviewing the Robbins’ complaint. “The school district would have no more right to [use the laptop's webcam] than to install secret listening devices in the textbooks that they issued students.”

Bankston suggested that students should tape over the lens of their laptops’ cameras when not in use.

McGinley confirmed that the district had disabled the camera activation feature on Thursday, and would not switch it back on without the written consent of students and families. The Robbins’ lawsuit alleged that the district had not told students or their families of the activation feature when it handed out the MacBooks. All 2,300 students at the district’s two high schools have been given notebooks.

The district intends to contest the lawsuit, said Young.

Mark Haltzman of the law firm Lamm Rubenstone, and the Robbins’ attorney, did not return a call for comment on Thursday.

The Robbins family has asked for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, and requested that the case be granted class-action status so other students in the district can join the suit.

Apple Wins Key Legal Ruling Against Clone Maker Psystar

Posted by:
Date: Monday, November 16th, 2009, 04:03
Category: Legal

The lesson for the day: If you didn’t develop or actually license an operating system, you can’t sell computers with that operating system on it. Late last week, clone Mac maker Psystar discovered this in a court decision in the company’s ongoing legal battle with Apple. According to AppleInsider, judge William Alsup ruled this week in a summary judgment that Psystar infringed on copyrights owned by Apple in order to place Mac OS X on unauthorized computers built and sold by the Florida corporation. In addition, Psystar was found to be in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by circumventing Apple’s protection barrier that prevents installation of its operating system on third-party hardware.

“Psystar infringed Apple’s exclusive right to create derivative works of Mac OS X,” the ruling reads. “Specifically, it made three modifications: (1) replacing the Mac OS X bootloader with a different bootloader to enable an unauthorized copy of Mac OS X to run on Psystar’s computers; (2) disabling and removing Apple kernel extension files; and (3) adding non-Apple kernel extensions.”

Alsup also denied Psystar’s own motion for summary judgment, in which the company attempted to prove that Apple engaged in copyright misuse. The judge ruled that Apple’s End User License Agreement only attempts to control use of Apple’s own software, which is within its rights.

The summary judgment isn’t the final blow and a number of issues remain to be resolved. Apple has alleged that Psystar has also engaged in breach of contract, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and unfair competition, among other activities.

Another hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 14, and trial between the two companies is due to start in January of 2010.

The decision came after both companies requested summary judgments, which turned into a positive for Apple and a significant defeat for Psystar.

The decision marks the latest of many setbacks for Psystar as it has attempted to defend itself from Apple’s suit. In September, a member of the Psystar defense team withdrew himself from the case. And in July, the Florida-based corporation brought on a new legal team after it emerged from bankruptcy.

The company, which sells machines with Snow Leopard, Apple’s latest operating system, preinstalled began to license its virtualization technology to third-party hardware vendors as of October. The Psystar OEM Licensing Program intends to allow Intel machines made by companies other than Apple to run Mac OS X 10.6.

AT&T Files Suit Over Verizon “Map” Ads

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, November 4th, 2009, 04:46
Category: iPhone 3GS, Legal

attlogo

Ad campaigns will always be snarky, but there are some areas you don’t want crossed. Per AppleInsider, AT&T has filed suit over Verizon’s “There’s a Map for That” advertising campaign, claiming Verizon is misrepresenting AT&T’s coverage areas.

The suit seeks a temporary restraining order and a injunction to stop Verizon from “disseminating misleading coverage maps” of AT&T’s areas of cellular and data coverage. AT&T is also seeking damages in the suit.

The “Map” advertisement displays two competing 3G coverage maps, in which the Verizon coverage area is clearly more widespread than AT&T’s coverage area. The suit contains an AT&T commissioned survey of the ads which found that 53% of those asked interpreted the non-colored areas of the maps to be total gaps in coverage.

AT&T cites that the company had previously contacted Verizon directly on Oct. 7, requesting that the ads be withdrawn or modified, according to the suit. Verizon responded by dropping the words “out of touch” from the ads and included the phrase “Voice & data services available outside 3G coverage areas” in small print at the end of the advertisements.

The complaint lists two TV spots currently airing, dubbed “College” and “Bench,” as well as a print advertisement that has run in various publications.

“The map attributed to AT&T shows large swaths of white or blank space, as if these are areas in which AT&T has no coverage whatsoever,” the suit reads. “By depicting AT&T’s non-”3G” coverage as white or blank space in the map used in Verizon’s print advertisement, consumers are being misled into believing that AT&T’s customers have no coverage whatsoever and thus cannot use their wireless devices when they are outside of AT&T’s depicted coverage area.”

The complaint was filed Tuesday in an Atlanta, Ga., federal court, and requests a temporary restraining order against Verizon to prevent the ads from continuing to air. The suit notes that the ads are airing during the “most vigorous and important marketing season for the wireless industry.”

AT&T claims that the ads in their current form convey the message that AT&T has no coverage in the areas that are blank on the 3G maps that are shown. AT&T contends that the 2.5G (EDGE) network is available in a much wider area, so to imply that there is no coverage is misleading.

According to Reuters, Verizon has responded, saying that the suit is without merit and the advertisements are intended to show 3G coverage only: “The ads in question clearly state that voice and data services are available outside 3G areas.

Apple Revises iTunes Store Terms and Conditions

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, June 18th, 2009, 18:20
Category: Legal, News

applelogo_silver

If you’re fond of reading the small print, this is for you.

Per Macworld UK, Apple has updated the iTunes terms and conditions with the release of yesterday’s iPhone OS 3.0 Software Update.

The changes reflect the ability to download movies, TV shows, music videos, and audiobooks from the iTunes Store on your iPhone or iPod touch. Downloads over 10MB require a Wi-Fi connection and downloading a full-length film on your iPhone could prove problematic if Wi-Fi connection is lost as Apple notes:

“Interrupted Delivery to iPod or iPhone. If delivery of a Product you purchased or rented (as applicable) using Wi-Fi on an iPod or iPhone is interrupted, your transaction will be included in your download queue. You may resume the delivery to your Apple-authorized device by selecting “Check for Purchases” from the Store menu in the iTunes application on your computer, or the download section on your iPod touch or iPhone.”

Click here for the full terms and conditions, although it basically sets the new parameters for shopping for larger content on the go and the sticking points to this.

Apple, Dell, HP Notebook Owners Consolidating Class-Action Suit Against Nvidia

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, May 12th, 2009, 07:11
Category: Legal

nvidialogo.jpg
Respective owners of Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard notebooks have combined their lawsuits against graphics chip maker Nvidia in an attempt to create a stronger class action suit to force the company to replace flawed processors.
If successful, the case could involve millions of notebooks in question.
According to Macworld UK, the five plaintiffs, including a Louisiana resident who purchased an Apple MacBook Pro a year ago, filed an amended complaint last week in a San Francisco federal court which accused Nvidia of violating consumer-protection laws.
Nvidia had admitted to the problem in July of 2008 when the company stated that some older chipsets that had shipped in “significant quantities” of notebooks were flawed. In a subsequent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company argued that its chip suppliers, the laptop makers and even consumers were to blame.
Nvidia later told the SEC that it would take a US$196 million charge to pay for replacing the graphics processors.
Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard in turn told their users that some of the notebooks contained faulty Nvidia chipsets. Apple later stated that the company had been misled, citing that “Nvidia assured Apple that Mac computers with these graphics processors were not affected,” Apple said in a support document posted last October.
“However, after an Apple-led investigation, Apple has determined that some MacBook Pro computers … may be affected.”
Click the jump for the full story…

Apple Now Involved in Class Action Suit Regarding MagSafe Power Adapters

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, May 6th, 2009, 09:28
Category: Legal, MacBook

magsafeshot.jpg
A recently filed class action lawsuit has accused Apple Inc. of neglecting a flaw in its MagSafe power connector for MacBook notebooks that might not only cause a break but could trigger sparks, forcing customers to buy replacements and even creating a potential fire hazard.
According to AppleInsider, the suit, which was submitted late last week to a Northern District of California court in San Jose, the joint complaint from Tim Broad, Naotaka Kitagawa and Jesse Reisman claims that the MagSafe cable used for the MacBook and MacBook Pro will inevitably fray near one of its connecting ends. The claim contradicts Apple’s claims that the adapter is “durable.” The plaintiffs allege that day-to-day use, including winding the cable around the power adapter’s pop-out guides, ends up destroying the cable over time — and that Apple is aware of the problem but hasn’t fully addressed it with a safer design.
All three plaintiffs at varying points have had to buy replacement MagSafe adapters for their systems that, in two cases, have already either needed a replacement or are showing signs of needing one. The plastic sheath on the cable in each circumstance was often melted away and exposed the bare wiring. In the complaint, Broad noted the heat was enough that it might have caused fire damage to his home if he hadn’t been present to watch for the danger signs.
“It almost burned my hand when I brushed it accidentally,” he says in the 27-page filing.
The trio also points to numerous examples of similar patterns online, including Apple’s own online store, where the cables had frayed, melted or sparked and forced customers to get one or more replacements. Apple, meanwhile, only asks customers to visit a certified Apple service location if sparks occur anywhere other than at the power plug’s metal prongs; many of these visits, however, only result in the customers buying another US$80 adapter rather than receiving a free replacement.
As the problem is already known to affect “at least thousands” of users and may well include hundreds of thousands with the exact same issue, the plaintiffs want class action status to represent anyone who may have bought an affected MacBook and have charged Apple with violating California’s business codes as well as breaching the implied and explicit warranties attached to the computers.
Broad, Kitagawa and Reisman want Apple to not only refund any of the associated costs with the known defective products but to warn the public and, if successful, pay punitive damages alongside the expected compensation.
As always, Apple has yet to comment on the lawsuit.

Apple Clamping Down on Jailbreaking, Other Practices with Latest iPhone NDA

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, April 2nd, 2009, 08:19
Category: iPhone, Legal

applelogo1.jpg
With iPhone OS 3.0 en route, Apple appears to be taking a more aggressive stance against develops writing applications for jailbroken iPhone handsets. Per an Ars Technica article, Apple has recently updated its “iPhone Developer Program License Agreement”, the new version explicitly disallowing jailbreaking, assisting in jailbreaking, and developing and distributing jailbreak apps.
The report goes on to mention that while previous agreements forbade the creation of apps that violate privacy, facilitate crimes, or violate intellectual property laws, the new one restricts developers from jailbreaking their own phones.
Back in February, Apple publicly defined its legal stance on iPhone jailbreaking, arguing that it represents copyright infringement and a DMCA violation. During this time, an Electronic Frontier Foundation proposal asked for an exemption that would allow jailbreaking of iPhones or other handsets, effectively liberating the devices to run applications other than those obtained from Apple’s own iTunes App Store.
The report also states that developers are also “forbidden from using the iPhone OS, SDK, or other developer tools to develop applications for distribution in any way other than the App Store or Ad Hoc distribution.” The new changes place significant restrictions on distribution, which is now only available via the App Store at Apple’s sole discretion.
The report also notes that updated segments of the NDA specifically restrict jailbreaking or circumventing the iPhone’s built-in OS security. Though such agreements aren’t likely to entirely prevent third-party developers from writing applications, they will likely discourage developers from submitting their unapproved or rejected app on other distribution outlets that offer alternatives for customers interested in buying, testing, or installing with their software.
The text defining these restrictions reads as follows:

(e)You will not, through use of the Apple Software, services or otherwise, create any Application or other program that would disable, hack or otherwise interfere with the Security Solution, or any security, digital signing, digital rights management, verification or authentication mechanisms implemented in or by the iPhone operating system software, iPod touch operating system software, this Apple Software, any services or other Apple software or technology, or enable others to do so; and
(f) Applications developed using the Apple Software may only be distributed if selected by Apple (in its sole discretion) for distribution via the App Store or for limited distribution on Registered Devices (ad hoc distribution) as contemplated in this Agreement.

Last September, Apple extended its iPhone Developer NDA by restricting the information that developers could discuss publicly by telling developers in its App Store rejection letters that “the information contained in this message is under non-disclosure.” While discussion of details in iPhone development is generally restricted, numerous developers have complained publicly about rejections without repercussion.
If you have two cents to hurl in about this, let us know in the comments or forums.

(more…)

Apple Faces Suit Over Exploding iPod Touch

Posted by:
Date: Monday, March 16th, 2009, 07:55
Category: iPod Touch, Legal

elipodtouch.jpg
A mother from Ohio has launched a suit against Apple claiming her son’s iPod touch media played exploded in his pants, caught fire, and left him with serious burns is currently seeking US$225,000 in damages from the company.
According to Macworld UK, the suit claims the 16GB iPod touch exploded while inside the 15-year-old boy’s pants pocket.
The complaint states that the boy was sitting at his desk at school when he “heard a loud pop and immediately felt a burning sensation on his leg.” When he stood up, the suit says, he realized the device was on fire.
“[He] immediately ran to the bathroom and took off his burning pants with the assistance of a friend,” the lawsuit states. “The Apple [iPod Touch] had burned through [his] pants pocket and melted through his Nylon/Spandex underwear, burning his leg.”
The boy is said to have suffered second-degree burns along with other “physical and mental conditions which will cause him to suffer pain, mental distress, emotional distress, and otherwise for the rest of his life.”
The family is currently demanding US$75,000 in “compensatory damages,” US$75,000 in “punitive damages,” and US$75,000 in legal fees and other “special damages.”
The suit names both Apple and the group of 10 employees who were at the Apple Store when the device was purchased as defendants.
The suit can be read in its entirety here.
If you have any thoughts or opinions about this, please let us know in the comments or forums.

(more…)

Cydia Opens Unauthorized iPhone Application Store

Posted by:
Date: Monday, March 9th, 2009, 06:07
Category: Legal

3giphone.jpg
Though the App Store provides some incredibly fun and useful stuff, there are still some iPhone and iPod touch applications that can’t be acquired through this end. Applications like Cycorder, which lets you use your iPhone as a camcorder or PdaNet, which allows users to use the iPhone’s cellular data connection on their computer via a Wi-Fi connection, may never see the light of day via Apple’s online retail channel for the handset and according to Wall Street Journal, have been available through Cydia, a software installer developed by 27-year-old California graduate student Jay Freeman.
Starting today, Cydia will be opening its own app store, providing a way those jailbreak developers to easily sell their applications.
Freeman has stated that Cydia “intends to charge developers no more than the commission Apple does for his site’s billing services.” The paper reported that two more rival app stores are also underway, including one interested in “selling adult games for the iPhone.”
Though this seems like these App Store rivals may need to have their lawyers on speed dial, many technology law scholars have said that an Apple legal victory isn’t necessarily a given, as this qualifies as uncharted legal territory.
“Courts have said you shouldn’t use the DMCA to leverage your copyright monopoly into other markets,” said Susan Crawford, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, who said that federal courts ruled that previous DMCA-related cases were less about preventing copyright infringement, but rather about stifling competition.
Last December, the EFF proposed an exemption to the DMCA that would legalize jailbreaking. In response, Apple filed their opposition to the proposal in February arguing that it could lead to problems with the iPhone’s security and reliability, as well as providing a potential venue for pirated iPhone applications.
Many tech law experts still say that the jailbreakers might actually have a viable defense. While jailbreaking and unlocking are not the same process, the iPhone unlocking process requires jailbreaking, so it seems likely that the same legal reasoning to defend against unlocking might hold.
Either way, Cydia’s Freeman has stated that he’s ready for the impending legal challenges to come…
If you have two cents to throw in on this, please let us know in the comments or forums.

(more…)

Third Class Action Suit Emerges Over iPhone Battery Replacements

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, September 5th, 2007, 07:52
Category: Legal

iphone3.jpg
A third class action law suit regarding the iPhone battery has emerged. The new case, filed by a Mr. and Mrs. Stiener, cite that the battery in the iPhone will only last for 300 cycles before being completely exhausting. According to the complain, the battery would cost US$115 to replace as well as the time necessary to wait for a replacement.
The couple alleges that by not placing a warning about this apparent limitation in or on its packing materials, Apple and wireless carrier AT&T have violated both good faith and the California Commercial code, which demands that manufacturers in the state honestly reflect how their products will perform in real-world conditions. The Stieners have gone on record to state that the two companies responsible for the iPhone and its service meant to defraud customers.
According to The iPodObserver, the nine-page argument that the case is using as its central core is being written by the Hoffman and Lazear as well as Folkenflik and McGerity law firms. Both of these firms handled a similar suit regarding the iPhone battery in mid-August. If found guilty, Apple and AT&T would be forced to pay restitution to any affected customer in the state of California.
If you have any ideas or feedback on this, let us know in the comments or forums.

(more…)