Brisbane-based blog iTunesonsale.com.au has been forced to change names after Apple threatened its founder with legal action.
Rowan Coe, whose site directs readers to discounted iTunes vouchers, was accused by Apple of being an unauthorised reseller, despite the fact iTunesonsale.com.au didn’t physically offer vouchers for sale.
“I’ve never sold them, I just republish publically available information from shopping catalogues and websites and other Twitter followers,” Coe told Macworld Australia. “I’m promoting where people can purchase the cards from. I was a bit disappointed.”
A second section of the email from Apple’s lawyer, Michael O’Donnell from O’Melveny & Myers in San Francisco, to iTunesonsale’s service provider informed Coe the use of the term ‘iTunes’ was in violation of Apple’s trademark rights and constituted copyright infringement.
“When the site’s blogging about iTunes discounts, I’m not really sure what else you can call it to correctly identify what it is,” commented Coe.
Coe said he approached Apple for permission to use the phrase, but was informed he would not be eligible. Anxious about confronting Apple in court, Coe quickly decided to alter the blog’s name to the more general giftcardsonsale.com.au.
“I was a little bit intimidated…I did consider just closing it down,” said Coe. “I don’t have any resources to fight something like this. But the people who read the site are always thanking me, so I thought I’d keep it going.”
Coe says the website began as a response to music piracy in an attempt to offer cheaper, legal downloads via the iTunes store.
“I started purchasing the vouchers as my own stand against piracy. I realised that it was just so much easier buying them through iTunes,” he said. “The quality of the songs is so much better. The prices, even at full price, are quite reasonable, I think. It makes it worthwhile to be a legitimate music purchaser”.
The Brisbane recruitment agent ran the site as a side project in his spare time and never expected to attract the attention of Apple.
“I guess given that it’s a hobby, just something that I do in my spare time, something I tinkered with over the past 18 months. I never really thought it was a major website or anything,” he admits.
While Coe admits he understands why Apple needs to protect its trademark, he wished the company could demonstrate more compassion toward its fanbase.
“I just think they could have possibly come to an agreement to allow us to work together,” he said, asking whether it would be unreasonable to expect “some sort of opportunity to pass on information about them and express admiration or concerns about them with some fear of being approached”.
Despite his run-in with Apple’s legal team, Coe believes the name change – and the publicity surrounding it – might provide an opportunity for the site to grow. He also insists he’ll be hanging on to his iPod.
“I’ll continue to use the iTunes Store,” commented Coe. “It’s a great facility and you can find pretty much everything you want there”.