Saturday, December 29, 2007

Much love, Joy of Tech and Hijinks Ensue

Check out JoT’s homage to the FSJ Shutdown Drama here. Meanwhile the nice dudes at Hijinks did a comic on the same subject here.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Breakfast with an Apple lawyer

So the Ones Who Must Be Obeyed accepted my offer to fly out here but they pushed the schedule up a bit. The guy who talked to my lawyer on the phone last night got on a red-eye to the East Coast and I went to see him this morning in a suite at the Four Seasons, even though my lawyer, Tony Clifton, who lives in New York, could not attend and had told me not to agree to anything but just to listen and hear the guy out and report back to him. I won’t use the Apple dude’s name here, for the sake of I don’t know what — decency? — but I’ll tell you how it went down.

The guy is maybe in his early forties, very friendly and polite, seems like a decent enough person, wearing some funky teeny-tiny eyewear and a blue suit with a fresh shirt and tie, which is I guess his way of reminding me that he’s a real live lawyer but otherwise he’s totally down to earth, big handshake and a smile that seems genuine. He’s had pastries and fruit salad and juice and coffee brought up, and offers me some, and we both get a cup of coffee and settle into a pair of easy chairs for our chat and it’s all very informal and relaxed, not some big hard-ass negotiation over a conference table.

He starts out by saying that he’s read all my stuff about the Think Secret situation and he’s been brought up to speed on my own interaction with the guy on his staff and he wants me to know he apologizes for the way things have been handled in some of the recent correspondence and so-and-so is one of the younger members of the staff and maybe a bit overeager and, don’t take this the wrong way, but he’s maybe a bit too much of an East Coast kind of guy, and there was never meant to be any threat to me and it seems like maybe there was just some misunderstanding on my part about some of the letters I received and he can see how that might happen but he wants me to know we’re not having this conversation as adversaries, blah blah.

In other words, Relax, we’re not going to sue you, and even though one of my punk kids got all Glengarry Glen Ross on you and threatened to have Katie Cotton beat your punk ass into oblivion (photo), in fact that’s not what we meant, except that we did, but not really. Or something.

He says that in fact Apple did not force Nick Ciarelli to shut down his blog, he wanted to shut it down anyway and so an agreement was reached and it really worked out really well for both sides. He also says that in terms of Apple’s reaching out to me he’s here because everyone at Apple really admires the blog, and the company wants to help me take the next step in my career and move onto the next thing, which they’re sure could be even bigger than FSJ, and while certainly there’s a monetary component to that there are also other ways in which they’d like to help me. However, regarding the money, he thinks I’m looking at this thing the wrong way and he hopes I’ll give him a chance to explain why he thinks there’s another way to view this, which is that imagine you’re a really avid surfer, but one day you realize you need to get a job. And a condition of the job is that you have to be in the office five days a week, Monday through Friday from nine to five, so you can’t go surfing. In other words, you’ve sold some of your freedom for money. And so maybe what we’re talking about with the blog is giving up a little of your freedom in exchange for money, but this is a transaction we’re all making every day.

Then he says he’s prepared to offer me two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and he says that while he can’t tell me what Nick Ciarelli got I can feel confident that this is a very good offer on Apple’s part.

I’m like, Dude, do you realize that guys like Nick Ciarelli don’t write their blogs because they want to hurt you, they write their blogs because they love Apple? And do you not also realize that you could put a lot of this stuff to rest simply by announcing product roadmaps instead of living under the cone of silence and locking yourselves down like some kind of weird Scientology cult and threatening to ruin people who write about you?

He says, I can go to three hundred thousand.

I’m like, Dude, no, okay? Look, do you not realize how nasty and offensive that offer is? Do you not understand why it’s wrong to offer someone money to stop writing about your company? Sure, Nick Ciarelli is just some college kid with a blog, and I’m just some dope writing jokes, but where does this end? It’s the principle of the thing, isn’t it? So forget the offer, because I’m not going to take it, but let’s just talk like two human beings, and what I really want to know is, how can you do this job?

He sits there. He says, I can go to four hundred thousand.

I go, Look, even if you’re not a nice guy, even if you have nothing but a little tiny black piece of coal for a heart, can’t you see why it’s a lousy idea for Apple to pay reporters to go dark? Do you not realize how Putin-esque this is? And okay, sure, in Russia they’re a bit less sophisticated and they just kill the reporters they don’t like, so maybe you get points for being more civilized but do you really not get why this is a bad idea for you? Really? Because even if there are people who are willing to take the money and shut down, even if Nick Ciarelli really did want to shut down his blog, do you not realize how incredibly awful it looks for you to attach the payment of money to the shutdown of a blog? Do you realize what a terrifying precedent this sets?

Think about your brand. What does Apple stand for? It’s about freedom. It’s about independence. It’s about people who think different. The crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. Maybe I’m an idiot but I actually believed that stuff. I guess I’m naive. I really wanted to believe that you meant that stuff, and maybe by wanting to believe in that I allowed myself to get duped.

But you guys put Martin Luther King Jr. in your ads. And John Lennon. You had Gandhi in your ads. Gandhi, dude. Think about that. Think about what Gandhi did in his life, what he stood for, the price he paid for freedom of expression. You drag out a symbol like that, it’s a pretty loaded reference, isn’t it? It’s a pretty powerful metaphor. I mean Gandhi is not just some celebrity dipshit singer like John Mayer. He’s not some guy you’d trot out just to flog a product. You drop the G-bomb and you’re trying to say something about the kind of company you aspire to be. But now you’re paying off reporters to stop writing about you? What the fuck has happened to you guys?

He says, I’m authorized to go as high as five hundred thousand dollars, but that’s it.

I’m like, Dude, are you not even listening? No, dude! The answer is no! For your sake as well as mine, no! Please, for the love of all things holy, go back to Cupertino and tell them to stop doing this! I’m begging you. It’s important. Tell them this: Siooma. Siooma, siooma, siooma.

By then he’d already put on his coat and picked up his briefcase and was on his way out the door. After he was gone I called Tony Clifton and told him what happened and he’s like, Well, my friend, you really screwed the pooch on this one. A half million? And you turned it down? Well, good for you, you dumb prick. It’s like I always say — some people deserve to be poor. Merry Christmas, moron.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I’m feeling a little bit better now

Just got torn away from a dinner party to have a chat with my lawyer. (It still feels weird to say “my lawyer.” I’ve never had a lawyer before. Except for that peyote incident when I was in college, and that was a public defender.) Anyway. I’m feeling better because my guy got in touch with someone a level above the bonehead who wrote me those stupid letters, and he was able to find out what the three supposedly “actionable” items are, and they’re ridiculous.

First one is the one where I predicted that iPhone would have only one button while on an ayahuasca trip with Sting in the Amazon rain forest. Sure, I wrote this in September 2006 and the one-button iPhone was introduced a few months later, in January 2007. They’re alleging my blog post was based on a leak and that it amounts to me printing trade secrets. Words fail me.

Second one was in October 2007 when I hinted about a forthcoming iPhone SDK. Same claim as above. Trade secrets. Equally crazy.

Third was in May 2007 when I said there would be new hardware announced at the WWDC in June. Seemed like a pretty safe guess to me at the time. They’re claiming I had sources.

So, yeah. We’re feeling pretty good. My lawyer, in fact, was laughing when he told me this. He’s like, Hey, go back to your dinner party. But by then I was home and didn’t feel like going out again.

Other news from my guy is that Apple’s team still wants to propose a cash-for-shutdown offer, but they only want to make the offer in person and they want the two of us to fly out to Cupertino. I was like, Dude, if these fuckers want a sitdown they can fly their fat lawyer asses out here to me, and what’s more, tell them they gotta be here Monday, at 4 p.m., and I’ll give them fifteen minutes to make their proposal. That way even if they turn around and fly right back it still fucks up their Christmas Eve.

My guy says no way will they agree to that. My feeling is hey, let’s see how bad they want to shut this baby down. Especially since we now realize their big “claims” are bullshit. More as this develops. Talk about roller-coaster days. Well I’ve got to go wrap some presents.

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God bless you for your support

Friends, thanks for the outpouring of support. I’m pretty upset here. Actually I’m really upset. Fact is, for all my joking, I really love Apple products and, until now, or even still now I guess, I really love Apple as a company. Sounds silly, I know, but I’m one of those nuts who wears an “I visited the Mothership” T-shirt and feels a kind of kinship with the company. So this hurts. I mean I know it’s just business and these are just legal assholes doing their job. But still. It feels personal.

To answer some of your questions:

Q. “Can’t you just delete the three posts they’re complaining about?”

A. From what I’m told (yeah, I talked to a lawyer), simply erasing the posts isn’t enough. Retraction or apology could appease a plaintiff in some cases but it isn’t a valid form of defense. It’s only enough if they agree it’s enough. They have to accept it as part of a settlement, in other words. But in this case there’s a complicating factor, which is this: They won’t tell me which three posts they’re talking about. I’ve asked. They say they’re not ready to disclose that and that in fact there may be more than three, but the three they’ve mentioned are just the first ones they’ve spotted in a cursory search. My sense is they’re not really upset about any particular posts, but just view them as a way to get leverage and push me toward a settlement on unfavorable terms.

Q. “Can’t you countersue?”

A. Yes. I can. Anyone can sue anyone. Right now it wouldn’t be countersuing since they haven’t actually sued me. It’s all just talk. Scare-the-shit-out-of-you talk, to be sure. But just talk. The other issue is that hiring a lawyer would cost me a fortune. I’ve already paid a shitload just for the consultation and retainer. And you know that if they really want to play rough Apple will just drag this out forever and run up the tab. Another thing to consider is that I’m just one guy, with a job and a family and plenty of other things to worry about; on their side they could easily put two legal douchebags (or five, or twelve, or whatever) to work on this full-time and do nothing but make my life difficult. Just hiring a lawyer to respond to their letters has been a huge and expensive pain in my ass.

Q. “You should get EFF to represent you.”

A. I tried, but at first they ignored me and then when I persisted I was told that EFF doesn’t appreciate some of the shit I’ve said about them in the past, because I’ve been pretty critical of them. I said okay, maybe you don’t like what I’ve written about you, but surely you’ll defend my right to say it, won’t you? Their response: “We only help people we like. Good luck.” Click. Dial tone.

First carrot, now stick

Another update. Now they are really pissed. Just got another PDF letter from the same Rambo attorney (photo above; but I won’t print his name) saying that in response to my last post about doing things transparently he wants to remind me that while this “course of action” is of course mine to take, he feels it is his duty to inform me that Apple’s lawyers have identified at least three posts in my archive that they “deem to be actionable.” He says Apple hopes this can be a “conversation rather than a confrontation” [isn’t Johnnie Cochran dead? ed.] and that before I turn this into a public fight by continuing on my current “course of action” I should perhaps consider the potentially serious consequences to myself and my family of doing so.

This is followed by a recommendation that I retain an attorney to represent me. And then, I swear to friggin God, there’s a list of my assets with an estimated value for each and I suppose the implied threat that I stand to lose them. Which kinda scares the living shit out of me, to be honest, since they’ve got a pretty thorough list, which means they’ve been doing some research on this and the offer didn’t just come out of thin air. Their lists includes my home address, most recent assessed value of my house and all the information about my mortgage; a rental property that we own; my bank accounts and investment accounts, including the college funds for our kids, whose names are used; and our boat and two cars.

Damn. And right at Christmas. I am going to go make myself a drink.

So now Apple is all pissed off

Just got an angry letter from their legal douchebags (a real letterhead legal letter, PDF attached to an email) saying if we are going to go forward then we both need to be dealing in good faith and part of that is keeping negotiations confidential and this post I made about the offer causes them to question my sincerity blah blah mwah mwah.

I told them we either deal out in the open, completely transparently, or we don’t deal. I’m waiting to hear back.

I’m weighing an offer from Apple

So it’s a complicated situation but I want to keep everyone in the loop. Bottom line is I’ve received an overture from the Mothership with a mention of a Think Secret type settlement if I’ll stop impersonating Dear Leader on the Web. Nothing nailed down at this point but frankly, honestly, I’m tempted to just take it. I’ve had a wonderful time doing this blog and have made some great new friends and I’d miss doing it. Also, in my case there are other parties involved, most notably my sponsor, with whom I have a contract to keep doing the blog. That’s why I say it’s a complicated situation. Discussions will continue and I probably won’t be able to disclose what we’re talking about. Until things get worked out I’ll be posting sporadically at best. To all of you who celebrate Christmas I wish you a happy holiday. To everyone else, enjoy the time off. Spend time with your loved ones. Turn off your computer. Remember what’s important. Little hint: It ain’t this. Peace out to all, and to all a good night.