Apple Is Bullying a Security Company With a Dangerous DMCA Lawsuit

Making tools should not be a crime

Kyle Wiens
OneZero
Published in
7 min readJan 6, 2020

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Photo: MIKI Yoshihito via Flickr

This op-ed was written by Kyle Wiens, the founder and CEO of iFixit, a company that publishes repair manuals for electronics and sells parts and tools to consumers. A previous version of this story was originally published on iFixit’s website; it has been updated for OneZero.

AApple has unleashed its legal juggernaut on an innovative iOS security company, and if they win their lawsuit, the damage will reverberate beyond the security community and into the world of repair and maintenance.

Corellium’s software creates virtual iPhones in a web browser so that app developers and security researchers can tinker without needing a physical device. The software is kind of like VirtualBox or Parallels — a container that you can run your own iOS image inside of. It’s nerdy stuff that most people will never need, but it’s genuinely useful. So useful, in fact, that Apple tried to buy the company, according to a court filing from November. When the founders refused, Apple decided to sue them into oblivion.

In a just-filed revision to its lawsuit, Apple has invoked Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the infamous and often abused copyright law. This claim dramatically raises the stakes for this lawsuit and puts Apple squarely in the crosshairs of copyright experts concerned about unintended precedents it could set if Apple is successful.

But before we talk about Section 1201, let’s look at Apple’s original complaint. It accuses Corellium of infringing on Apple’s copyrighted works by providing virtualized access to iOS. “Corellium has simply copied everything: the code, the graphical user interface, the icons — all of it, in exacting detail,” the lawsuit states.

This is an annoying thing for Apple to complain about because it doesn’t provide a first-party way for people to virtualize iOS. If it did, loads of developers would be happy to pay. Apple gives iOS away with every device, and it doesn’t sue people for pirating iOS the way that Microsoft has become notorious for in regards to Office and Windows. Running virtualized operating systems is a pretty commonplace thing to do these days: A working Windows setup on…

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