Apple Reportedly Settles Over Third Party App Copyright Infringement

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Apple and Australian-based Jigsaw Entertainment settled out of court over the “Chopper Soundboard” app that was developed by a teenage student in 2010. The once best-selling “entertainment” app was based on unlicensed copyrighted material from a comedy show that aired in 2005-06.

While the boy violated copyright, it was Apple that was sued by Jigsaw. Apple reportedly retreived the money paid to the boy, along with the money Apple also earned from sales of the app, and paid it to the firm as part of the settlement.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the terms of the settlement are confidential and of course Apple has refused to comment, so there is little information other than the agreement was reached on February 6 with the confidentiality order being issued on February 17.

It is known that at least 10,000 copies were sold in the three weeks the app was on the App Store before being pulled. Jigsaw had asked for the app to be removed from the App Store and when that didn’t happen, the company filed suit on October 12, 2010.

Apparently the boy’s father also asked his son to pull that app once he learned what he had done. The father also wrote a letter to apologize to Jigsaw Entertainment. Jigsaw agreed not to pursue legal action against the boy.

Apple was of the opinion that the proper action would be for Jigsaw to sue the app developer. However, Jigsaw chief executive Nick Murray’s argument was that since the App Store was curated by Apple, Apple should bear responsibility for the infringement.

“Apps from the iTunes store are all vetted, checked and classified by Apple before being released,” Mr. Murray said. “We can’t understand how a product which actually stated it was from a TV show appears not to have been checked by Apple to make sure it was an authorised [sic] product…”

The “Chopper Soundboard” app contained up to 116 soundbites from a sketch comedy show created by Heath Franklin for The Ronnie Johns Half Hour. It has content especially from a particular sketch called “Harden the F—- Up,” which was popular with teenage boys.

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Comments

zewazir

chief executive Nick Murray?s argument was that since the App Store was curated by Apple, Apple should bore responsibility for the infringement.

In short, we figured we’d be better off going after the deeper pockets.

webjprgm

Apple should just add (if it doesn’t already) a clause that states the app developer is responsible for and has permission to use all copyrighted materials.  Remedies include taking back all revenues paid to app developer for infringing app.

Then if anyone sues Apple over copyright they can just say, hey look at this clause, you have to sue to developer.

They could also add a checkbox (if they don’t have one) similar to Wikipedia that says by checking it you affirm that you, the app developer, have rights to all copyrighted materials in the submission.  Another layer to say it’s the app developer’s fault.

The default remedy should be exactly what happened in this case, i.e. that all revenue paid to both app developer and Apple gets revoked.

d'monder

webjprgm: Apple already has all of that, so it’s a bit confusing as to how they got involved here.

I’m an app developer, and personally ran into this.  I unintentionally used copyrighted material in an app, the copyright holder complained to Apple, and Apple forwarded their attorney to me.  So procedures are definitely in place.

PS- A little reminder for everyone: just because text is commonly used & appears on various sites, don’t assume it’s public domain. :(

Terrin

Then if anyone sues Apple over copyright they can just say, hey look at this clause, you have to sue to developer.

 

  Yes, except it wouldn’t work. Apple could still be found liable for contributory copyright infringement. People seem to mistakenly think you have to intend to violate copyright law to be found guilty of copyright infringement. Copyright infringement is a strict liability matter. If Apple aids in selling copyrighted material without permission, it would be libel. Merely having a clause in its contracts with developers will not save Apple because Apple will still likely be sued successfully. Sure, Apple could throw a clause in that says if Apple was found libel of copyright infringement, the developer will reimburse Apple. Realistically, however, most small developers would go bankruptcy and wouldn’t be able to pay Apple so Apple would foot the bill.

In the DMCA there is a take down provision that protects Internet companies from copyright infringement of its users, but this provision wouldn’t save Apple because it only applies to companies that don’t actively control content. Apple vets the content and likely was guilty of infringement.

Copyright laws in this Country really are draconian, Further, they are getting worst.

Terrin

In short, we figured we?d be better off going after the deeper pockets.

Perhaps. It is also true Apple was guilty of contributory copyright infringement. Apple’s intent is irrelevant for copyright purposes.

DamenS

n short, we figured we?d be better off going after the deeper pockets.

Ah, yes ... so, why not ?  If you could spend a large sum of money suing someone who had no money - why would you ?  Unless you hoped an “instalment plan” payed over 30 years could help your business. 

Given that Apple has legal liability as well as the developer, why wouldn’t you pursue Apple who may have money to pay you damages ?  You’de be stupid not to.

I guess I just don’t GET your point.  This is the way the legal system has been conducted for well over a hundred years, so do you have, and if so, what is, your actual POINT ?

zewazir

My actual POINT, for those who missed it is the sad way people go after the money, not those who are actually RESPONSIBLE for the infraction they are seeking to address.  The law itself is greatly remiss in this.  We are all too eager to reassign responsibility rather than accept the basic fact that people are individually responsible, no matter how our screwed up laws say otherwise.  So Apple returns the money they made, both the boy’s and Apple’s share, while the boy remains completely untouched, keeps the money he made off the app (at least, that’s how I interpret “Jigsaw agreed not to pursue legal action against the boy”, while Apple, whose responsibility is not zero, but also not absolute, does ALL the paying.
It’s wrong.  It’s sad. And it’s even sadder how many people simply accept it as a natural part of our culture to shift blame away from the individual who did the actual transgression.

DamenS

You seem to have an incomplete understanding of the issue.  The legal system is not always right, but it has been developed over a good many years with the input of a good many intelligent people.  Certainly it is not infallible (especially judgements which tend to be momentary decisions rather than the canon of actual laws which are developed over time) however, it is infinitely more likely that you are wrong than that the laws themselves are wrong.  In this particular case, Apple does bear a responsibility (no matter how hard you try to ignore it), and it is arrogant to think your knowledge of the situation is greater than the courts of law.  If you provide a workplace or work environment (I can’t believe I’m actually explaining this), you are responsible for what happens in it.  You provide an environment in which drugs are dealt, don’t expect to say “Yeah, but WE didn’t deal drugs ourselves” !!  Fair, right ?

As this article says, Apple returned the money they paid the Boy (presumably his 70% share) and the 30 % they kept for themselves, for promoting an app which was illegal and breached copyright. 

You still haven’t provided any explanation for why this might be unfair.  This is what I ask of you.

In this particular case, a boy (whose father wrote a proactive letter of apology) who probably has no real tangible assets was not pursued in court - so what ?  They couldn’t get anything out of him (other than bad publicity) anyway.  That Jigsaw did not pursue legal action against him does NOT mean (as you claim) that Apple have not taken back the money they paid him, based upon their contract with him, but maybe they HAVE been unable to - neither of us knows for sure, and if they’ve paid his cut out of their own pocket so what ?  They were the App Store “guardians” who failed in their administrative and legal responsibilities.

Whilst it is not clear from this article whether Apple received the boy’s payments back from him or not, even if they didn’t, as a multinational company (and owner of the App Store and author of its policies), they bear the greater responsibility to not infringe upon copyright and to understand legal issues in general.  If this lesson has cost them several thousand or 10’s of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars (based on sales reports), then so be it. 

In what place does not accepting responsibility seem like both a good idea, and a realistic option ??

This is not sad.  Defending a wrong based on a blinkered view or a “Ra Ra” love for a company who can do no wrong IS sad.  Logic and reason and that which is right and true should override your fan boy status.

webjprgm

So basically what I’m hearing is that Apple either has to not vet content at all, this making it the developer’s burden, or else they have to laboriously check every piece of content for copyright violation even when the developer claims to have permission. I wonder how Apple attempts to do that.

zewazir

You make several assumptions, not the least of which being my objections to the way the case was handled indicates a blind devotion to Apple Corp. Second, that I am defending the wrong done.  Sorry, you are barking up the wrong tree there. I neither defended violation of copyright, nor use blinders to Apple’s actions.  What I AM saying is letting people who violate law off just because there is a corporation with deep pockets to sue is wrong.  dead wrong. And but one of many symptoms ensconced in the modern legal system that is behind many of the woes of this society.

Yes, it IS sad, because the person who actually violated the copyrighted materials has zero consequences for their actions.  How does that play out for future cases?  People violate copyright and Apple (Or any other app outlet) pays the consequences.

I don’t give a ripe fart whether it was Apple or Google or RIM or Microsoft or Joe’s App Market. Making Apple pay the full brunt of the consequences when their liability in the case was limited to a: not vetting the app properly and b: not removing the app when complaints were first filed against it.  In that second part, Apple IS liable. In the first part, they made the terrible error of TRUSTING someone.  Put them all in jail: they trusted a developer when they should not have.

The idea that Apple, because (as you seem to imply) they are a corporation, are MORE responsible for the actions of an individual - who is NOT employed by Apple, but simply taking advantage of Apple developer market - that the individual themselves, is SAD beyond belief.  It is dead WRONG.

Now, Apple is going to have to spend a lot more time and money making sure someone else does not violate copyright law.  Funny, but it sems to me that Apple is not the copyright police, yet that is the position your type pts them in, because THEY (being a corporation and not an individual) are responsible for things other people NOT of the corporation, do.

Lack of personal responsibility, blame someone else: the CORE of what is wrong with our so-called modern society.

DamenS

So basically what I?m hearing is that Apple either has to not vet content at all, this making it the developer?s burden, or else they have to laboriously check every piece of content for copyright violation even when the developer claims to have permission. I wonder how Apple attempts to do that.

Apple would never not vet content - certainly Steve Jobs would not have allowed it, and Apple’s “DNA” has not changed that markedly since his passing.  It is one of the primary advantages of their “closed system” (though many Android adherents would argue it is a disadvantage compared to their open system) as regards having control of content and being able to supply content which adheres to their standards, rules and regulations.  They get to protect their own interests, and the consumer receives some sort of assurance as regards app quality and freedom from Malware etc.

How Apple chooses to comply with the various laws in various countries might be interesting to find out, but I wouldn’t wonder about it too much.  I used to wonder how YouTube, for instance, did the same thing in looking for copyright infringement in their videos.  I think I understand the basic concept of how they do it, but probably not in any depth.  There would be myriad ways for doing so depending upon the companies involved and the type of applications they have; there are even companies like “Pirate Bay” etc. - the ones who have had legal problems in the past - who have made NO attempt to protect copyright at all.

DamenS

Damn - I just spent almost an hour countering your arguments @zewar (it was a lengthy post) but my imac’s wi-fi dropped off and I lost my entire post upon submission !!  Frustrating.  I should have copy/pasted the entire thing before pressing send.  I don’t have the patience to formulate the same arguments again.  AAAaargh !

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