Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Apple fights websites selling access to iOS6 beta code

Apple is cracking down on websites that sell access to pre-release, beta versions of its iOS6 iPhone and iPad software. Beta software is incomplete, and Apple only makes it available to software developers for testing purposes.

The websites charge about $10 (£6.45) to register an individual device so that it can run iOS6 beta software. Apple has sent legal notices to web-hosting companies requesting that they disable the websites.

Apple offers the latest finished versions of its iOS mobile operating system free, but charges registered developers $99 (£65) to access beta versions.

This payment entitles developers to "activate" the Unique Device IDentifier (UDID) numbers of up to one hundred iOS devices with Apple so that they can run iOS 6 beta software. iOS6 is expected to be released later this year.

Activation websites register developer accounts and pay Apple for a hundred device activations, and then sell these off individually at a profit.

"We have paid the fees and done all the work. All you have to do is register your iOS device on our account. Once you register, you'll be able to download the beta firmware and install it on your device," promises one activation site.

Within the last month Apple has issued DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notices to Fused, a Seattle-based web-hosting company, in relation to activation websites it hosts, according to Fused chief executive David McKendrick.

A DMCA takedown notice is a formal way for a copyright holder or their agent to demand removal of allegedly infringing content from the Internet.

The sites in question had been active for three months, Mr McKendrick said, and Apple claimed in the notices that they breached its developer agreement or facilitated copyright infringement.

"This is definitely a new move on Apple's part," he said. Apple prohibits developers from providing pre-release software to anyone other than their employees and contractors who have a "demonstrable" need to use it to develop and test applications on their behalf.

But Mr McKendrick added that Apple's action was unlikely to be effective, because many of the sites in question were in the process of moving their sites to hosting firms based outside the US.

"Apple is definitely fighting a losing battle on this one. Unless they go directly after the developer accounts abusing the process, they have little chance scrubbing these sites off the web," he said.

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