Apple Everywhere

Apple Rights and Wrongs

- 2010.05.18 - Tip Jar

My brother and I have been watching the DVD release of the HBO miniseries John Adams, and it's got me thinking. It paints a very vivid picture of the American Revolution, some of it slightly fictionalized or altered for the purpose of the story, but on the whole a much more truthful telling than has ever been told before.

Part of the story that stood out to me was the political beliefs of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson and Franklin stood on the left, Hamilton on the right, and Adams and Washington held the middle ground. It strikes me as strange that we remember George Washington as a great general and president (he's on two pieces of currency), but we hardly remember John Adams (his face and name aren't among those immortalized on currency).

Nonetheless, both were of the same view, so I suppose the only difference was in reputation (Washington led us to victory; Adams was an early British supporter turned patriot - not exactly a great public image in the late 1700s). Their view was that of balance, of unity: keeping the people in check through the law, and keeping the law in check by the people.

The seemingly endless struggle we face today in many different areas is that of restraint versus freedom - or, as it stands now, absolutism versus anarchy. Should we be able to do what we want, when we want to, in whatever way we want, or should we be held accountable for our actions by laws and regulations?

Absolutism vs. Anarchy at Apple

This question has been asked countless times about Apple.

  • "What gives Apple the right to censor questionable content?"
  • "So, Apple can steal technology from other people, but we can't use Mac OS X on any computer we want?"
  • "Ha! Somebody finally defeated Apple's oppressive secrecy!" [the iPhone 4 leak]

Apple is currently embroiled in lawsuits, "violated" because of the iPhone 4 leak, under intense pressure to open the App Store to whatever developers see fit to create, and, on top of this, it has to keep operating, keep updating its products, and keep paying its employees.

Reminds me of tar-and-feathering.

With technology playing as big a role as government in our lives (if not bigger), we have become not only citizens of our native land or adopted country - we are now citizens under companies, brand names, organizations, and causes. We purchase the right to use what they have to offer (similar to taxation), and they in turn have to listen to our demands, both direct or indirect (statistics = representation). Just like in government, sometimes we don't get everything we want - and neither do they.

Apple Right and Wrong

Corporate justice is a hard thing to determine, but I view Apple's current situation this way:

Controlling the App Store

Does Apple have the right to censor the App Store? Most emphatically. The App Store is not free speech or the right to worship - it's a privilege, like the privilege of driving on a paved road or having public street lamps. Apple's "censorship" of apps in no way affects our core liberties. Too often we take "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" to mean the right to own electronics and use them for any and every purpose, and the right to make ourselves feel good by having more features than anybody else.

OS X on Macs Only

Does Apple have the right to determine which computers we install Mac OS X on? This is more difficult to reason through. However, my gut judgment tells me yes. In my eyes, the Macintosh hardware line is like a state government, sovereign in its own right, but subject to the federal government.

If Mac OS X were available for every computer, Apple would not be able to ensure its higher-than-average quality, just like if there was no state government, there would be no way to adapt to socioeconomic and political conditions on a regionalized basis.

Think of it this way: If OS X were available for every computer, we would be at the mercy of every OEM there is. With OS X under Apple's control, only Apple is accountable to us as to its design, and we're accountable to them as to its implementation.

Patent Issues

Should Apple steal from other companies? No! Apple should be made to pay a reasonable amount for whatever it takes from other companies. The important words are "reasonable amount" - just as Apple shouldn't steal, other companies shouldn't defraud Apple.

George Lucas was in a similar situation during the production of Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi - whenever LucasArts went to buy anything for Star Wars, be it a prop or a stage light, sellers would charge them extra, because they knew Star Wars was going to be very successful financially.

Just compensation is the key.

Secrecy

Does Apple have a right to its secrecy? Only if we let them have it. If people are concerned that what Apple does in secret is harmful, they have the right to boycott Apple products or to bring the matter up in court. Obviously, that's not happening, so Apple keeping its new products secret until the appointed time is apparently cuasing no harm. How much fun would Christmas be if you knew exactly what you were getting several months beforehand?

Our Role

We're only accountable to Apple as long as it is accountable to us. In other words, if you don't like what Apple is doing, don't buy its products.

If everybody thought like that and acted on it, I guarantee you there would be change. LEM

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Austin Leeds is a Mac and iPad user - and a college student in Iowa.

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