Along with many other people, I’m on the Apple Developer Center Seed list, which means that I get to see preview and pre-release editions of future OS updates (e.g., Mac OS X 10.4, aka Tiger). But things on the list are different now that Apple has come out and sued Think Secret over pre-release leaks (learn more at MacSlash or Daring Fireball). Instead of the cheery one line “don’t forget that this is confidential stuff” on the ADC Seed Update newsletter, there’s now a new disclaimer in town…
In its all-cap glory:
INFORMATION. YOUR UNAUTHORIZED DISTRIBUTION OF THE PRE-RELEASE
SOFTWARE OR DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION RELATING TO THE PRE-RELEASE
SOFTWARE (INCLUDING THE POSTING OF SCREEN SHOTS) MAY SUBJECT YOU
TO BOTH CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY AND RESULT IN IMMEDIATE
TERMINATION OF YOUR ADC MEMBERSHIP.
I think Apple’s absolutely right in its stance and that while it’s fun to guess and read about industry rumors, companies need to keep their plans and strategic direction confidential because company growth is built on differentiation and it’s darn presumptuous of others outside of the firm to think they have a better sense of product marketing and announcement timing. Or just want to make a buck off violating non-disclosures…
Some people just don’t get it. Ian Betteridge, for example, says that Think Secret’s done Apple a favor by helping garner publicity during the week of the Consumer Electronics Show. Sorry, but it’s Apple’s decision when to publicize its new products.
My colleague Dan Gilmore misses the mark here too, when he says that if whomever leaked the news had done so to a large media conglomerate like The New York Times, “Apple wouldn’t be suing them”. As a journalist, Dan, you should know better: real publications don’t publish rumors. They substantiate them and they also call the company in question for a response too, so to compare the personal website Think Secret to the bastion of journalistic integrity The New York Times (on a good day, at least) still doesn’t explain away the fact that Nick DePlume at Think Secret was wrong to publish the rumors.
A few more quick hits: John Handelaar on his Weblog says that this lawsuit “is exactly and precisely a case of Apple putting the screws to the little guy”, conveniently forgetting that Think Secret was wrong in publishing these rumors knowing that they were violating Apple trade secrets. It’s not about big or little, it’s about corporate ethics and confidentiality. Canadian Paul Denton meanwhile says that Apple’s being “remarkably heavy-handed”, without adding that perhaps DePlume was being a bit too light-headed when he published this material. Is the big guy always wrong in the blogosphere?? Denton says that people like to “engage in baseless wish-fulfillment rumourmongering” and he’s right. But that’s not what this case is about, is it?
Over at the Forbes Web site, Lisa DiCarlo is saying that Apple’s “biting the hand that feeds it” with the lawsuit. Her claim is that sources leak details of forthcoming products in the tech industry all the time, and that the community gives Apple untold free — and mostly positive –publicity and buzz about upcoming products and strategies. But you’re sidestepping the point of the lawsuit: It’s Apple’s corporate strategy, it’s Apple’s product announcement and it’s Apple’s corporate privacy that’s been violated by Think Secret willfully publishing known NDA information. The rationalization that “it’s done all the time” is the weakest excuse I can imagine for Apple letting this slide. I mean, people cheat on their taxes all the time too, Ms. DiCarlo, so are you saying that when someone’s caught they shouldn’t get in trouble?
So I say to the rumor sites: “keep it clean, folks” and make sure that you only talk about rumors that are “in the public eye” or are things you’d like to see happen, products you’d like to see Apple sell, not the results of dumpster diving, violating non-disclosure agreements, or disgruntled employees sending you “the scoop”.