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Apple shuts down Web-based product inventory tracking tool

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
A website that scraped data from Apple in order to let users know what iPad Air models were in stock near them has been shut down by the company via a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice.



Developer Mordy Tikotzky posted an update on Wednesday to his website Apple-Tracker, revealing that he decided to shut down the site after receiving the DMCA notice from Apple.

"I'm not really interested in picking a fight with apple so..... I guess it time to just say good bye," he wrote. "Before I go I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for the nice comments and emails that you've sent in the last few days. It was fun while it lasted."

Apple's takedown notice is posted on the site and was actually dated Oct. 17?-- weeks before the iPad Air went on sale. The letter, sent by the law firm Kilpatrick, Townsend and Stockton LLP, accuses the site of having used "page-scrape" tools to "access, acquire, copy or monitor" data from Apple's website.

Prior to its shutdown, the tool gained interest last Friday as a means for shoppers to determine which new iPad Air units were in stock at their nearest Apple Store locations. Data at the time showed that the high-end 128-gigabyte model was in limited supply, while 16-gigabyte Wi-Fi-only versions in space grey were readily available.

The tool worked by compiling and reformatting data pulled in from Apple's official online store. The data represented information limited to in-store pickup purchases only, and did not necessarily reflect the stock on hand.

The website also had trackers for the iPhone 5s, and Tikotzky had said hew as readying the tool to be able to handle Apple's forthcoming second-generation iPad mini with Retina display. But with this week's shutdown, users will now be required to check Apple's website directly.
post #2 of 49
That's a shame.
post #3 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Bonner View Post

That's a shame.

How?

post #4 of 49
Why? It makes it easier to find ipads you want in your area? Apple shouldve built this site themselves.
post #5 of 49

My guess is they don't want people seeing just how few iPad mini retina's they have in stock when they hit the stores.  That would be fodder for the competition.

post #6 of 49

Damn it, I loved that site :(

post #7 of 49
I can't say I know every provision in the DMCA, but this site was copying factual information, which is not protected by copyright law under Feist. Wish he would have tested the law in court, but I know why he didn't
post #8 of 49
That stinks. That site was awesome for finding inventory. Not very consumer oriented move by Apple. What rationale do they have for shutting them down? As user above said if they shut them down then apple should build something to do this good a job themselves. So stupid by apple
post #9 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by sanyasi View Post

I can't say I know every provision in the DMCA, but this site was copying factual information, which is not protected by copyright law under Feist. Wish he would have tested the law in court, but I know why he didn't

Agreed, Apple seems to have improperly using the DMCA takedown provisions. He should have got somebody involved like the EFF, and he probably would have prevailed. 

post #10 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmgregory1 View Post

My guess is they don't want people seeing just how few iPad mini retina's they have in stock when they hit the stores.  That would be fodder for the competition.

What competition? ;-)

They had to "make an example" so nobody else would follow his and start scraping apple.com for more potentially injurious reasons.

Same reason lawyers made Sunbeam put "remove clothing from body before ironing" on their box containing steam irons.
post #11 of 49
Too bad because Apple's tool is severely limited.
post #12 of 49
Dude! Since the site was inaccurate (not showing correct store inventory) it definitely had to go! Project a false impression of scarcity ? How is that good for anyone but competitors?
post #13 of 49
Do we know how accurate this site actually was?
post #14 of 49

site was giving wrong info.  But not entirely the sites fault.  The Apple site would regularly show iPhones available for pickup at certain locations.  But when you put it in your shopping cart it would show as unavailable.

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Apple Purchases last 12 months - iPhone 5S (two), iPhone 6, iPhone 6+ (two), iPadAir, iPadAir2, iPadMini2, AppleTV (two), MacMini, Airport Extreme, iPod Classic.
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post #15 of 49
When friends of mine say they won't use apple products because they are to controlling, it's hard to argue when they act like this.....really can't see the harm the site was doing
post #16 of 49
Chilling effects registration of this C&D:

https://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca512c/notice.cgi?NoticeID=1308133

If you see "The item you requested does not exist or is not publicly available." please check back later.
post #17 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by lee6370 View Post

When friends of mine say they won't use apple products because they are to controlling, it's hard to argue when they act like this.....really can't see the harm the site was doing

 

its giving WRONG info.  You can tell true availablity until you put the item in your cart and check out

Apple Purchases last 12 months - iPhone 5S (two), iPhone 6, iPhone 6+ (two), iPadAir, iPadAir2, iPadMini2, AppleTV (two), MacMini, Airport Extreme, iPod Classic.
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Apple Purchases last 12 months - iPhone 5S (two), iPhone 6, iPhone 6+ (two), iPadAir, iPadAir2, iPadMini2, AppleTV (two), MacMini, Airport Extreme, iPod Classic.
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post #18 of 49
The legality of website scraping is sort of a gray area. It's not worth his time/money to try and take this up the court chain. Also, I don't see this as a malicious threat by apple as much as them protecting their data from malicious use in the future.
post #19 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by vaporland View Post

What competition? ;-)

They had to "make an example" so nobody else would follow his and start scraping apple.com for more potentially injurious reasons.

Same reason lawyers made Sunbeam put "remove clothing from body before ironing" on their box containing steam irons.

Yes. This is the real reason. They just can't allow scraping.
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post #20 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by sanyasi View Post

I can't say I know every provision in the DMCA, but this site was copying factual information, which is not protected by copyright law under Feist. Wish he would have tested the law in court, but I know why he didn't

Inventory counts aren't the same kind of 'factual' as say obama's birthdate. Plus the DMCA also deals in issues of how the information is gathered. He used code he didn't have permission to use to create his site, which was likely the issue that got the order issued.

Like it or not folks, Apple's not legally required to provide the data in this kind of form and just because they don't doesn't mean, legally, anyone that does gets a pass. He should be happy it was a DMCA order and he wasn't hit with the whole Computer Fraud Act by some fame seeking federal lawyer.

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

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post #21 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by smakdown61 View Post

The legality of website scraping is sort of a gray area. It's not worth his time/money to try and take this up the court chain. Also, I don't see this as a malicious threat by apple as much as them protecting their data from malicious use in the future.

 

 

The problem is not that Apple asked the Site to be taken down, it is that it used the Digital Milliuem Copyright Act to do it. Apple does not hold a copyright in data. Consequently, Apple's use of invoking the DMCA was improper. If the Site was damaging Apple in another way (eg showing improper data), than Apple could have used another legal theory to have its data removed. For example, Trademark infringement. 

post #22 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post


Inventory counts aren't the same kind of 'factual' as say obama's birthdate. Plus the DMCA also deals in issues of how the information is gathered. He used code he didn't have permission to use to create his site, which was likely the issue that got the order issued.

Like it or not folks, Apple's not legally required to provide the data in this kind of form and just because they don't doesn't mean, legally, anyone that does gets a pass. He should be happy it was a DMCA order and he wasn't hit with the whole Computer Fraud Act by some fame seeking federal lawyer.

 

There was no order issued, which would imply a Court was involved. Apple used the DMCA's take down provisions to issue a demand letter to ask  the Site to be taken down. Apple does not hold a copyright in its inventory data, so a DMCA takedown notice was likely improper. Big companies all the time use the DMCA take down notice provisions improperly because they generally get away with it. 

post #23 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by TBell View Post
 

 

 

The problem is not that Apple asked the Site to be taken down, it is that it used the Digital Milliuem Copyright Act to do it. Apple does not hold a copyright in data. Consequently, Apple's use of invoking the DMCA was improper. If the Site was damaging Apple in another way (eg showing improper data), than Apple could have used another legal theory to have its data removed. For example, Trademark infringement. 

Read the full text of the letter that Apple sent do this guy (at http://www.apple-tracker.com/).  Although apparently the DMCA provides some guidance about how to do this, the complaint is strictly a standard "you have violate our terms of use of our web site, so stop" complaint.  They could (and would) have sent exactly the same letter even if the MDCA didn't exist.  This is no different from a hypothical case where put a robots.txt file on your site saying that Google isn't allowed to spider your pages and they do anyway.  Apple is completely within their rights to limit uses of their Web site to purposes they approve.

post #24 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by TBell View Post

There was no order issued, which would imply a Court was involved. Apple used the DMCA's take down provisions to issue a demand letter to ask  the Site to be taken down. Apple does not hold a copyright in its inventory data, so a DMCA takedown notice was likely improper. Big companies all the time use the DMCA take down notice provisions improperly because they generally get away with it. 

Although I liked the site and wish there was something as convent, isn't any data on the apple site apple data? However, I wonder if he presented it as reporting news.. Eg -A recent 'survey' of apple inventory on their site shows.....
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post #25 of 49

Why doesn't he just put the code up on github?

post #26 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by TBell View Post

Agreed, Apple seems to have improperly using the DMCA takedown provisions. He should have got somebody involved like the EFF, and he probably would have prevailed. 

Spending any amount of time in court when you don't need to is a waste of time. Although it stinks, I agree with his decision. Move on. Nothing to see here.

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post #27 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by malax View Post

Read the full text of the letter that Apple sent do this guy (at http://www.apple-tracker.com/).  Although apparently the DMCA provides some guidance about how to do this, the complaint is strictly a standard "you have violate our terms of use of our web site, so stop" complaint.  They could (and would) have sent exactly the same letter even if the MDCA didn't exist.  This is no different from a hypothical case where put a robots.txt file on your site saying that Google isn't allowed to spider your pages and they do anyway.  Apple is completely within their rights to limit uses of their Web site to purposes they approve.

So presumably one could manually acquire this same data and build a semi-accurate database a la GasBuddy.com?

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post #28 of 49
I finally found the 5S model I wanted last month thanks to Mordy. Sorry to see this go, because this borders on overbearing behavior by Apple. Reminiscent of kindergarten teachers herding their little dears along the sidewalk down the block to the playground. "All of you line up, now, and follow the person ahead of you. Keep holding on to the rope, you hear?"

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post #29 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kibitzer View Post

I finally found the 5S model I wanted last month thanks to Mordy. Sorry to see this go, because this borders on overbearing behavior by Apple. Reminiscent of kindergarten teachers herding their little dears along the sidewalk down the block to the playground. "All of you line up, now, and follow the person ahead of you. Keep holding on to the rope, you hear?"

He violated their site's terms of use. As it represented a service that was needed and useful, Apple should consider making their own app that answers the same questions for consumers.

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post #30 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


So presumably one could manually acquire this same data and build a semi-accurate database a la GasBuddy.com?

Presumably.

post #31 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by sog35 View Post

its giving WRONG info.  You can tell true availablity until you put the item in your cart and check out

I'm not questioning that the info the site gave was correct or incorrect....if people are going to base judgements on a third party site then more fall them, it's more about the heavy handed tactics.
post #32 of 49

I doubt anyone from apple was even involved in this. The law firm probably has instructions to look for websites scraping data and send an auto cease letter. Hopefully, since this is making PR rounds through various websites, someone at apple corporate will notice and realize their own system was pretty bad. 

post #33 of 49
i remember when microsnot did the same thing to that site that was tracking zune inventory.

-- said no-one ever.
post #34 of 49
That's pretty weak. That site has helped me and a lot of people I know find and buy iPhones and iPads.
post #35 of 49
Data is considered to be facts, and is not eligible for copyright. That's why you can't sue someone for putting your address on their web site.

This is absolutely NOT DCMAable, and the company sending out the complaint can be sued.
post #36 of 49
The site worked great for me. That's how I found my gold 64GB iPhone. This is terrible for consumers. Where is Jobs to veto this!!!!
post #37 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by sanyasi View Post

I can't say I know every provision in the DMCA, but this site was copying factual information, which is not protected by copyright law under Feist. Wish he would have tested the law in court, but I know why he didn't


Unfortunately fighting Apple would be expensive.  He would need a lawyer to counter-sue and take that as his payment.  I wish there was more of a penalty for issuing a false DMCA. 

post #38 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by smakdown61 View Post
 

I doubt anyone from apple was even involved in this. The law firm probably has instructions to look for websites scraping data and send an auto cease letter. Hopefully, since this is making PR rounds through various websites, someone at apple corporate will notice and realize their own system was pretty bad. 


Nope.  Apple is not a record label issuing automated DMCA's for youtube.  There is no automated way of issuing a DMCA against scraping that would not generate a HUGE amount of false positives.  This was most certainly done manually with full oversight. 

post #39 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kesem View Post

The site worked great for me. That's how I found my gold 64GB iPhone. This is terrible for consumers. Where is Jobs to veto this!!!!

Worm food?

 

It was as accurate as Apple's website

post #40 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by sanyasi View Post

I can't say I know every provision in the DMCA, but this site was copying factual information, which is not protected by copyright law under Feist. Wish he would have tested the law in court, but I know why he didn't

That's absolutely correct.    Before Feist, there was a "sweat of brow" doctrine where copyright could be acquired by virtue of the fact that compiling and publishing the factual data required a lot of work and resources.   Feist threw that out.    When Feist went into effect, I was an exec for a b-to-b database publisher of metadata.   Feist kind of freaked us out, although there were still certain aspects of our data that could maintain copyright.    We started populating our data with fake "seeds" so we could tell if anyone copied and republished our data.   In the end, I think we only caught one small business stealing our data.    Under Feist, we wouldn't have been able to sue them for copyright infringement, but we had planned to sue "thieves" under "unfair business practices" statutes.

 

I don't know whether DCMA changes any of that, but the bigger issue is why did Apple care if the same information was on their own website?   It seems to me that this information helps Apple's sales - it doesn't hurt them because the easier it is to find a store with inventory, the more likely it is that someone will make the purchase.    The only way this make sense is if Apple wanted to steer consumers to order from their website.    Isn't there a ton of sites and apps that scrapes data from Amazon?

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