Nick Ciarelli, the then 13-year old founder of Think Secret, who last year settled his lawsuit with Apple as a senior at Harvard for an undisclosed sum(and was subsequently forced to shut down ThinkSecret) today writes a blog post on The Daily Beast.  His contention is that Apple has called off the lawyers recently in light of the negative press the lawsuits had caused (and little effect they had on the spread of Apple rumors).

His view, like ours, is that rumors sites serve only to increase awareness of Apple’s products and are a positive influence on the company’s bottom line.   Most technology companies couldn’t pay enough for the news coverage that Apple receives.  He acknowledges:

Last year, for instance, a site called 9to5Mac published photos of a new lineup of iPod nanos two weeks before Jobs unveiled them to a crowd of reporters. Before long, the photos were replaced with the glum message: "Sorry. Apple called. Said take ’em down. They are down."

My own site, Think Secret, which I started when I was 13 years old, didn’t comply with Apple’s demands. So the company sued me and sought to uncover the identities of my sources. (I mounted a First Amendment defense and, shortly before graduating, settled the suit, leaving Apple reporting behind to join The Daily Beast.)

We have received a few other take down orders…in fact, a sure fire way to know if a rumor was legitimate used to be if Apple issued a "take down".  No more.  Sites like AOL/Engadget (new Apple keyboard) or KevinRose.com(4G Nano) are not getting scary letters from Apple when they post pictures of upcoming products.  (Engadget did, however, take down our Nano photos last year in compliance with Apple’s lawyers)

As Apple becomes a bigger and bigger influence on the technology landscape, dynamics change.  Apple has more of a presence at other companies (Best Buy, international telecoms, Hon Hai, etc.) and its moves become more important and leaks become harder to contain. 

Or perhaps Apple has belatedly realized that strong-arming fan sites into removing their reports only serves to confirm those reports, which quickly spread to other news outlets. Few outside the Apple faithful were following Think Secret’s story about the Mac mini—until Apple sued us, propelling the leak into the pages of The New York Times (the suit "appears to acknowledge the accuracy of the reports," the paper said).

But maybe Apple has also realized that when it threatens, subpoenas, and sues web sites run by some of its biggest fans, its actions create a torrent of negative PR that ultimately tarnishes Apple’s brand.

Apple has contended that leaks dampen interest in new products, but if anything they generate a great deal of excitement around its announcements. “All of the rumors are good for Apple in the long run—it keeps a lot of attention on Apple,” says Arnold Kim, the proprietor of MacRumors.com. Apple’s apparent shift marks the end of a self-defeating war

Some have said that Apple is no longer able to keep a secret.  Has that hurt the popularity of its products?

(we love Apple)

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