I’m going to start this with an Andy Baio-style disclaimer: I’m a bit reluctant about posting this, mostly because I don’t want all the minions of Apple to come down on me.
Some time ago, I came across a website plagiarism search engine named “Copyscape”:http://www.copyscape.com/ and, just for fun I thought I’d run some of my pages through it. One of the pages I searched for copies of, was my “Rounded corners in CSS”:http://virtuelvis.com/gallery/css/rounded/ tutorial.
Much to my surprise, I did find a copy. Not from some owner of a small personal website, but from Apple Computer, Inc. Since Copyscape won’t allow HTTP POST requests to be converted to GET requests, you will have to perform the search on your own, or look at the “screenshot I captured”:http://virtuelvis.com/download/2005/04/apple/copyscape.png.
The page in question that had made it on to the Apple web site, was a chopped-off version of the rounded corners tutorial, incorporated into the WebCore layout tests for “generated content”:http://www.opensource.apple.com/darwinsource/10.3/WebCore-106/layout-tests/fast/css-generated-content/, most likely since earlier versions of Safari exhibited some “very funky rendering”:http://virtuelvis.com/gallery/css/rounded/safari-screenshot.jpg (screenshot).
The layout test has since been removed (more on that later), but the images I created for that test are still present in the “resources subdirectory”:http://www.opensource.apple.com/darwinsource/10.3/WebCore-106/layout-tests/fast/css-generated-content/resources/. *Update, April, 11.:* Apple has removed the four images that used to reside in this and similar directories — this happened _after_ this article went live. I have yet to hear from Apple.
I spent about 30 seconds feeling a little flattered, since the rounded corners tutorial I had created had been deemed important enough to render correctly in Safari (and consequently Konqueror), but I also realised that Apple had violated my copyright, they had incorporated a document for which there was no license that granted them the right to do this. In addition, they had never asked me permission, and they had chopped off the footer of the document with links back to my site.
*If Apple had asked* prior to adding the document to the Webcore test suite, it’s likely I would have granted them the permission to do so, provided they had added a comment in the source with my name and a URL. But they didn’t. So I wrote an e-mail to Apple’s Copyright agent:
bq.. I am the creator and copyright owner of the following document:
The document is question is a CSS Layout example/CSS tutorial on the use of “generated content” in Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Major parts of this document has been copied into the “Darwin” Software distribution, from versions 7.0 and up, without my prior consent, and now resides at the following URLs:
My contact information is
[ Snipped ]
Note: Given the right terms and conditions, I could be willing to discuss granting Apple a license (retroactively) for incorporating the document into the “Darwin” software distribution.
p. The very last part of this mail is a key point: I wanted to see if Apple Computer, Inc. were at all interested in compensating copyright holders who have had their copyright violated, and I wanted to give them a fair chance of doing so. At most, I had hoped to get a copyright notice into the document, and perhaps an iPod Shuffle for my kid out of this, since the document where Apple violated my copyright represents only a small part of this website, and as such holds fairly limited economic value on its own.
The response I got from Apple was rather disheartening, since they carefully avoided answering to the issue of getting a license for the document. This is the response I got:
bq.. Via Email
March 17, 2005
Attn: Arve Bersvendsen
We are in receipt of your letter dated March 16, 2005 requesting that infringing material be removed from Apple Computer, Inc. server(s) with respect to alleged violations of intellectual property.
In accordance with your request, Apple will take appropriate action to remove the alleged infringing material from its servers. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at [e-mail and phone removed] should you have any questions or need additional assistance.
Apple Computer, Inc.
[e-mail address snipped]
This message and any attached documents contain information from the law department of Apple Computer, Inc. that may be confidential and/or privileged. If you are not the intended recipient, you may not read, copy, distribute, or use this information. If you have received this transmission in error, please notify the sender immediately by reply e-mail and then delete this message.
p. I then did the following:
* Wrote a new e-mail to Apple, pointing out that the document had made it into seven different versions of the source Darwin distribution.
* Pointed out that since Apple had not attributed me, or added a copyright notice, downloaders would have to assume that they had to treat it as being distributed under the “Apple Public Source License”:http://www.opensource.apple.com/apsl/
At the time I wrote Apple back regarding this matter, Apple had not yet removed the infringing document from the Apple web site or Darwin source distribution, and I also directly suggested that they just compensate me instead of incurring the costs associated with spending time to hunt down and remove the documents. (I also falsely assumed that the WebCore test suite was distributed with the binary release, which it on later inspection proved not to be).
Apple didn’t respond.
So, I wrote them another e-mail, where I asked them directly if they were not interested in compensating copyright holders who had had their copyright violated by Apple Computer, Inc., and gave them a deadline set to March 22. 2005, 01.00 GMT to respond to me, and that I would take a failure to answer as a confirmation they were not interested in compensating.
Apple didn’t respond.
After this, I kind of gave up on getting a response from them, but I tried calling Apple Norway, to see if there was anyone there who could answer me. (Since there is a nine-hour time zone difference between Norway and California, I thought I might get this settled with Apple Norway, also eliminating any linguistic misunderstandings). The moment I said this was about Apple Computer, Inc. infringing on copyright, and failure to respond to my direct questions regarding compensation, the person on the phone immediately turned hostile, saying she was not the one to talk to, in a fairly rude manner. I then suggested that she get me someone who could talk to me, and suggested she had someone who was in a position to discuss this with to call me.
She again, in a fairly rude fashion, said that that was not possible. Getting someone to break off their easter holiday for a half-hour phonecall was impossible. (Norway generally goes to a near-halt during the entire week before easter, but this was still a normal working day).
Fed up with silence and rudeness from Apple Computer, Inc. and Apple Norway, I then told her that I would likely go public with this whole story, unless I got to talk to someone who could actually talk to me on behalf of Apple. She was still unwilling to get someone to call me.
h3. What now?
Will I be taking legal action against Apple over this? Most likely not, as my understanding is that this would be governed by civil law in Norway, and I do not have the resources to fight a computer industry behemoth like Apple. Nor do I think any compensation I could likely get out of this would be worth the effort. I am pretty much over and done with the whole deal. I’ll just refrain from buying or recommending Apple hardware or software (including music sold through iTunes).
There are some interesting repercussions of this matter, though, but I will leave them for someone else to answer:
* Are there more copyrighted works included in Darwin or other Apple software that is infringing on someone’s copyright?
* If software vendors are unwilling to compensate when they have violated copyright, are they morally entitled to demand compensation when someone violates their own copyright?
I will leave those two questions for someone else to answer.