Apple recently filed a DMCA takedown request relating to information posted by an independent iPhone security researcher. The researcher, Siguza, posted a tweet featuring a possible encryption key for the iPhone’s Secure Enclave Processor.
Apple later backtracked and allowed the tweet to be reposted. Even so, security researchers are accusing Apple of abusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
According to Motherboard, Siguza posted the original message on Sunday. According to the publication:
“Two days later, a law firm that has worked for Apple in the past sent a DMCA Takedown Notice to Twitter, asking for the tweet to be removed. The company complied, and the tweet became unavailable until today, when it reappeared.”
Apple later confirmed that it issued the DMCA takedown request. It then retracted the request, but Twitter had already removed the tweet. Apple then asked Twitter to reinstate the tweet.
In addition, a number of Reddit DMCA takedown requests were filed, related to the r/jailbreak subreddit. It’s not clear who submitted the copyright claims.
DMCA: iPhone and beyond
The DMCA is a digital rights management law. Then-President Bill Clinton signed it into law in October 1998. It was an attempt to update copyright for the digital age. However, it also includes provisions that go beyond basic copyright. As the website WhatIs? explains:
“Strictly interpreted, DMCA would outlaw many entirely ethical, and even necessary activities. For example, security-related tasks that involve circumventing security systems, encryption research, or reverse engineering software would be illegal. Prior to the law’s passing, 50 of the country’s most prominent computer scientists and technology signed a letter to the U.S. congress warning that DMCA, as originally envisioned, would ‘imperil computer systems and networks throughout the United States, criminalize many current university courses . . . and severely disrupt a growing American industry in information security technology.'”
This battle between security researchers and DMCA-enforcing companies has therefore been an issue for more than two decades. In Apple’s case, this is the latest chapter in a complex relationship with security researchers.
Apple sued the former iPhone jailbreakers behind the company Corellium in August. Correllium’s software allows users to run iOS firmware in a web browser. Apple claimed this violated its trademarks. However, Corellium argued against Apple’s IP theft claims, saying it performs a crucial function for security researchers.