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Print 53 comment(s) - last by EricMartello.. on Nov 10 at 10:39 AM

Apple has a beef with the site's use of page-scrape tools for data on Apple's official online store

A website that takes inventory of Apple products in nearby stores has been shut down by the Cupertino giant itself.

Apple-Tracker, which was developed and maintained by Mordy Tikotzky, was a site that compiled data on in-store pickup purchases only from Apple's official online store. So if you were shopping for an iPad Air and wanted a specific model, you could've used Apple-Tracker to see which stores nearby had the item in stock. 

However, Apple sent Tikotzky a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice last month claiming that the site uses page-scrape tools to "access, acquire, copy or monitor" data from Apple's website.

The DMCA notice was sent October 17 by the law firm Kilpatrick, Townsend and Stockton LLP.


Apple-Tracker.com

Hence, Tikotzky has decided to let the site go. 

"I've deciced to turn off the site," Tikotzky posted on Apple-Tracker. "I'm not doing this because I want to, but rather because I received a DMCA takedown notice from Apple.
I'm not really interested in picking a fight with apple so..... I guess it time to just say good bye. Before I go though I just wanted to says thanks to all of you for the nice comments and emails that you've sent in the last few weeks. It was fun while it lasted."

Apple-Tracker most recently provided inventory info on products like the iPhone 5S, iPad Air and was even gearing up for the iPad mini with Retina display. 

Source: Apple Tracker



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So let me get this straight...
By Motoman on 11/6/2013 11:47:32 AM , Rating: 5
...an apparently hardcore Apple fanatic uses his own time and resources to build a website that helps other Apple consumers locate and purchase Apple products...

...and Apple shuts him down.

Hey Apple - congrats on the own-goal. I hope many more are in your future.




RE: So let me get this straight...
By techxx on 11/6/2013 11:52:26 AM , Rating: 4
Sounds about right... are we missing something?


RE: So let me get this straight...
By Reclaimer77 on 11/6/2013 3:03:08 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Text Sounds about right... are we missing something?


He wasn't giving them the customary 30% cut of his profits lol.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By kleinma on 11/6/2013 3:41:39 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is probably the ads more than anything else. Go look at the site, its still up

www.Apple-Tracker.com

about 50% of the page real estate is covered in ads.

Apple is in their rights here (as much as I am not an apple fan, I would agree with Google or Microsoft on this as well) to request it to be taken down.

Server resources and scraping aside, Apple could also easily make the case that people would/could think that site is actually part of Apple (yes people are stupid).


RE: So let me get this straight...
By Reclaimer77 on 11/6/2013 4:08:01 PM , Rating: 5
I'm NOT a fan of website takedowns in general. I believe they violate the free expressive nature of the Internet and World Wide Web as was intended. The power to arbitrarily silence and sensor individuals, especially by gigantic powerful corporations and Government entities, is just too easy to abuse.

As a society we should have risen up and fought this insidious "takedown request" nonsense. By conceding, we've allowed Governments, special interest groups, and corporations to mold and shape the information available to us as a people. And not just "us" as Americans, but the entire world.

If Apple Tracker is doing something illegal here, by all means, Apple should be within their rights to use due process to do something about it. So far it just appears that Apple wants the site down because they don't like it.

quote:
Apple could also easily make the case that people would/could think that site is actually part of Apple (yes people are stupid).


Oh please! If we allow that argument to work, half the goddamn Internet would be taken down.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By Nortel on 11/6/13, Rating: -1
RE: So let me get this straight...
By Reclaimer77 on 11/6/2013 4:41:22 PM , Rating: 5
1. He used information Apple made public. PUBLIC!
2. You can "plaster" as much ads on a website you see fit.
3. All you do is suckoff Apple, of course you have no problem with it.

I'm speaking about a grand issue with possibly damaging effects for generations to come. That could impact the free exchange of knowledge and information for all peoples.

All you care about is cheering for your precious team.

Let me put it another way, would you and others be in favor of a company or individual removing books from a library so that nobody could read them and form their own opinions or even educate themselves? Well this is no different. Site takedowns are wrong!


RE: So let me get this straight...
By Kiffberet on 11/7/13, Rating: -1
RE: So let me get this straight...
By Reclaimer77 on 11/7/2013 8:10:46 AM , Rating: 3
The data being scraped wasn't copyrighted in the first place, wtf are you talking about.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By retrospooty on 11/7/13, Rating: 0
RE: So let me get this straight...
By Kiffberet on 11/8/13, Rating: 0
By retrospooty on 11/8/2013 9:19:37 AM , Rating: 2
The fact that you see rage anywhere in my statement speaks volumes to your mental deficiencies. It was very "matter of fact" and not angry in any way. Your just another webloser with no life that needs to glom on to a company for security and insult people that dont fully agree in order to feel better about himself. Your a sad little man that has zero significance.


By Kiffberet on 11/8/2013 8:00:30 AM , Rating: 1
Have you even looked at an Apple web site (or any corporate website)?

Well have a quick glance at the bottom of the page, and you'll see:

quote:
Copyright © 2013 Apple Inc. All rights reserved. Terms of Use Privacy Policy


Thats WTF I'm talking about.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By maugrimtr on 11/7/2013 11:19:24 AM , Rating: 2
From Apple's website terms of use:
http://www.apple.com/legal/internet-services/terms...

quote:
Except as expressly provided in these Terms of Use, no part of the Site and no Content may be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, publicly displayed, encoded, translated, transmitted or distributed in any way (including “mirroring”) to any other computer, server, Web site or other medium for publication or distribution or for any commercial enterprise, without Apple’s express prior written consent.


Also:

quote:
You may not use any “deep-link”, “page-scrape”, “robot”, “spider” or other automatic device, program, algorithm or methodology, or any similar or equivalent manual process, to access, acquire, copy or monitor any portion of the Site or any Content, or in any way reproduce or circumvent the navigational structure or presentation of the Site or any Content, to obtain or attempt to obtain any materials, documents or information through any means not purposely made available through the Site. Apple reserves the right to bar any such activity.


In effect, the application Apple targeted was using its site but in a way that obviously in breach of the terms of use. Since Apple assumes you read the terms of use and agreed with them after informing yourself, this create a binding contract.

Of course, that's utter bull for most people (even in real life, one hopes). Nevertheless, the guy developed a web application. He's not stupid. He would have explicitly known that web scraping is banned by nearly all online companies. That foreknowledge doesn't make him an average ignorant user of Apple.com.


By otherwise on 11/7/2013 11:34:50 AM , Rating: 2
There is zero legal precedent that you can be bound to a website's agreement simply by using it. Even click-through licenses haven't been well tested in court.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By ammaross on 11/7/2013 2:03:05 PM , Rating: 3
"You may not use any...“robot”, “spider” or other automatic device, program, algorithm or methodology...to access, acquire, copy or monitor any portion of the Site or any Content"

Uh oh. I hope Google, Yahoo!, Bing, et al have prior written permission to index Apple's website.... Perhaps they should just drop Apple.com from their search engines altogether, just to be safe.


By Reclaimer77 on 11/7/2013 3:17:20 PM , Rating: 3
The DMCA was never intended to be used to enforce a websites terms of service. Wtf!!! There is no legal justification for this.

I hope this goes to a court and Apple gets smacked down. But that won't happen.


By EricMartello on 11/10/2013 10:39:49 AM , Rating: 2
I don't disagree with your general sentiment that the DMCA is a sh1tty law that needs a lot more specificity and limitation on how it can be used, but in this case Apple does have some technical merits to its action.

quote:
1. He used information Apple made public. PUBLIC!


True, but the act of making information public is not a forfeiture of copyright. For example, if I post a video I made myself on Youtube using my own footage that recorded myself, I am not placing it into the public domain by doing so. I retain copyright privileges on said video and can go after anyone who downloads it and reposts it without my permission.

quote:
2. You can "plaster" as much ads on a website you see fit.


No problem with ads on their own, however if your website is relying on association with an established trademark (Apple) or copyrighted content (data scraped from Apple's site) to attract visitors and you do not have permission to use said intellectual properties, then you are committing a form of infringement.

I've never had a problem with people SHARING copyrighted material - but I have always opposed people sharing said copyrighted material and profiting from it, even if its indirect (by placing ads on a sharing website).

quote:
3. All you do is suckoff Apple, of course you have no problem with it.


I'm no fan of Apple the company but their stock makes me several thousand $$$ each week so I can't complain too much. :)

quote:
I'm speaking about a grand issue with possibly damaging effects for generations to come. That could impact the free exchange of knowledge and information for all peoples.


The problem with laws like the DMCA and ACTA is that they are passed at the behest of lobbyists with little or no input from any opposing views.

quote:
Let me put it another way, would you and others be in favor of a company or individual removing books from a library so that nobody could read them and form their own opinions or even educate themselves? Well this is no different. Site takedowns are wrong!


The takedown ability provided by the DMCA is heavily abused because there is no "opportunity cost" for the person initiating the takedown request. They need to make it more difficult to issue such a claim...but in this particular case I don't think Apple was out of line.

The information the site provided is, as you noted, publicly available on Apple's site so it's not like they are concealing it by having this site shut down...and it is their information so they are not obligated to make it freely available to anyone, anytime, anywhere.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By Piiman on 11/9/2013 8:39:40 AM , Rating: 1
"A lay person may mistake this as an Apple owned site"
Yeah so?


RE: So let me get this straight...
By Visual on 11/7/2013 7:38:33 AM , Rating: 3
Apple is not in their right, because the site only scraped availability data, not any copyrighted materials. DMCA can not possibly be used for this, and apple would lose a lawsuit if it came to that. But Apple don't care cos they know it would probably not come to that because any mere mortal would be bankrupted by the costs of a lawsuit and just back down.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By 91TTZ on 11/8/2013 10:20:31 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Apple is in their rights here (as much as I am not an apple fan, I would agree with Google or Microsoft on this as well) to request it to be taken down.


I'm not so sure that they were. This person used information that Apple was making publicly available on their website. If Apple wanted to restrict the amount of information they publicly release that would be within their right, but that's not what happened here.

More likely this guy just saw the writing on the wall- a company with VERY deep pockets would be able to afford to harass him in court for years to come. Even if they didn't win the case they could still bankrupt him by making him pay the legal fees to defend himself.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By Samus on 11/6/2013 3:54:03 PM , Rating: 5
Apple treating their biggest fans and customers like shit? No, GTFO!?


RE: So let me get this straight...
By retrospooty on 11/6/2013 11:56:07 AM , Rating: 3
RE: So let me get this straight...
By edpsx on 11/6/2013 11:58:45 AM , Rating: 5
I bet they come out with their own inventory site using his same methods and claim its revolutionary and their own original idea.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By retrospooty on 11/6/2013 12:08:46 PM , Rating: 2
Absolutely, everything ever invented is MINE MINE MINE!


RE: So let me get this straight...
By superstition on 11/6/2013 4:11:38 PM , Rating: 2
Let me introduce you to the corporation:

quote:
Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.


I truly hope you don't believe that corporations are people with consciences and characters. They aren't. They are an invention designed to take as much as possible from society. If they happen to do useful things, that's a side effect.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By Reclaimer77 on 11/6/2013 4:19:23 PM , Rating: 1
Where did he say ANY of that?

Yes corporations exist to make money. Are they all gigantic cockbags like Apple? Clearly NOT.

quote:
They are an invention designed to take as much as possible from society. If they happen to do useful things, that's a side effect.


Now you've gone over the deep end. You mean besides making world economies work, employ people, make high standards of living possible, provide for healthcare etc etc...

Do you grow your own food? Manufacture all your goods? Make your own clothing? Build your own car? This website, how did you access it? Who made your computer possible? The electricity you use, who generates that?

I'm sick and tired of seeing you post the same anti-capitalist garbage and watching nobody call you out on it.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By superstition on 11/6/2013 4:38:42 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Yes corporations exist to make money. Are they all gigantic cockbags like Apple? Clearly NOT.

This is exactly the faulty reasoning my post addresses.
quote:
Now you've gone over the deep end. You mean besides making world economies work, employ people, make high standards of living possible, provide for healthcare etc etc...

Do you grow your own food? Manufacture all your goods? Make your own clothing? Build your own car? This website, how did you access it? Who made your computer possible? The electricity you use, who generates that?

I'm sick and tired of seeing you post the same anti-capitalist garbage and watching nobody call you out on it.

How's the deep end?


By retrospooty on 11/6/2013 5:40:49 PM , Rating: 2
Your making your point wrong.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By Piiman on 11/9/2013 8:46:43 AM , Rating: 2
"revolutionary" ??

Perhaps you meant to say "Magical?"


RE: So let me get this straight...
By tayb on 11/6/2013 12:15:51 PM , Rating: 4
What this guy was doing was running scripts that faked legitimate page requests on the Apple store then scraped the content. Every time someone searched for an iPad it was hitting the Apple servers 4+ times and downloading the content. That's 4+ page requests and 4+ hits on Apple data servers.

Then the guy takes the resulting content and puts it up on his own personal website likely with advertising.

Why would Apple allow this to continue? Why would any company allow this? It just costs Apple money and directs users away from their online store.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By jimbojimbo on 11/6/2013 12:40:14 PM , Rating: 5
But the tracker merely makes it easier for a customer to buy a Apple product. Do they think it's better to keep it more complicated? Maybe they believe in the old bait and switch so if people come in looking to buy an iPad mini they can say oops, we don't have any but we do have plenty of iPad Air models for sale... and only the 64GB model.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By mrbofus on 11/6/2013 12:56:34 PM , Rating: 2
Why not the 128GB model?


RE: So let me get this straight...
By tayb on 11/6/2013 1:01:04 PM , Rating: 4
It doesn't matter what the tracker is doing it matters how it is doing it. It is doing it by scraping content in a way that the server and database servers were not design to facilitate. This guy is costing Apple money for the benefit of himself. It doesn't matter what his site offers because Apple has every right to ask him to stop. There is no company that would allow someone else to profit by abusing their servers.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By Schrag4 on 11/6/2013 1:40:35 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
There is no company that would allow someone else to profit by abusing their servers.


What if the company was also profitting from the arrangement? Every company would turn down the extra profit, instead building some kind of relationship (an excellent PR move too)? Really?


RE: So let me get this straight...
By tayb on 11/6/2013 3:34:21 PM , Rating: 2
It doesn't matter if the company was profiting. The profits are absolutely not worth losing customers to another site. Apple wants customers using apple.com and not another site. Every company wants this. This isn't rocket surgery.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By Samus on 11/6/2013 3:58:27 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously, by your logic, I could run a diesel fuel price\location tracker website that scraps data from Ford, GM, Chrysler and VW to verify truck/car compatibility, mileage and tank capacity, and they'd have every right to shut me down for using "their" data.

The irony would be the people using the website would most likely have one of those trucks\cars. So like this Apple precedent, it would hurt the consumer AND the manufacture.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By tayb on 11/6/2013 5:25:07 PM , Rating: 2
It has nothing to do with "their" data but everything to do with bombarding Apple servers with illegitimate page requests. I do not understand why you have such a hard time understanding this. The Apple website is not a web service it is a web site. Do you understand the difference???

Can you please explain to me what the benefit to Apple is here? Do you think that they gained extra sales because of this site? Really though?


By Reclaimer77 on 11/6/2013 5:48:13 PM , Rating: 2
Unless he was running a DoS attack purposefully, there's no such thing as an "illegitimate" page request. Where are you getting that from?

I know Apple seems incompetent with anything involving the Internet, but certainly even THEY know how to block his domain if the web scrapping was really the issue??

quote:
The Apple website is not a web service it is a web site. Do you understand the difference???


And if he was violating the terms of use of their website, they have every right to block his access to it.

What I can not and WILL NOT condone is using this ghastly DMCA take-down aberration against him.


By CarbonJoe on 11/6/2013 6:38:52 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There is no company that would allow someone else to profit by abusing their servers


Isn't that exactly what Google does in order to build their search database?


By YearOfTheDingo on 11/6/2013 1:06:17 PM , Rating: 2
It makes it easier for a customer to buy the Apply product that he wants and not what Apple wants to sell to him. That's just wrong. I consider that an act of blasphemy.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By wasteoid on 11/6/2013 1:37:11 PM , Rating: 2
He should have published the scripts/website, so someone else more brazen could pick up where he left off.


By jimbojimbo on 11/6/2013 12:38:02 PM , Rating: 2
That's one classy company.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By NellyFromMA on 11/6/2013 12:50:21 PM , Rating: 2
Web Scrappers NEVER only use their own resources. They abuse webserver resources which are NOT their own in order to extract data to use for their own needs, profit generating or otherwise.

Web servers, db servers, and other infrastructure for hosting web sites often aren't set up for the types of synthetic load web scraping generates. It is not manual human traffic, its automated and the loads are several orders of magnitude greater than that anticipated traffic for the anticipated users.

Just because its on the web doesn't mean you can programmatically access it no holds barred. If the website bans the practice, its because it isn't available for that purpose. The Apple site is not a database service, its a web site. Big difference, especially from the business side.

This leads to REAL QoS problems for the REAL users, just because some scrappers want to generate a data service where none exists.

Why jump to conclusions without grasping the ENTIRE problem and just reflexively assume Apple is evil and wrong always?


RE: So let me get this straight...
By ven1ger on 11/6/2013 2:47:51 PM , Rating: 2
If Apple was already providing this sort of information easily, I don't think websites like the one mentioned would be frequented and wouldn't necessarily be needed. But, if the site was a popular site, then logically, that would mean that people were not getting the information they needed off of Apple's site.

I also find it kind of strange that Apple (a technology company) cannot restrict these scrappers via programming, instead of using lawyers. Probably cheaper and longer lasting to restrict scrappers at the website than via legal means.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By Samus on 11/6/2013 4:02:25 PM , Rating: 2
I think you need to realize all resource websites scrap manufactures websites.

Basically what Apple has done here would be the equivalent of the entire internet sending a DMCA seizure to Google for "page caching" websites.

I'm sorry, if you run a public website with public information, anybody can use that information (aside from trademark photo's, etc) for whatever the hell they want. It's PUBLIC.


By NellyFromMA on 11/7/2013 9:49:54 AM , Rating: 2
It's not about whether people can USE the info. Of course they can, that's why its there. However, each website has their own Terms of Service and can explicitly forbid web scraping and other data aggregation. That is their right as the owner of the server and provider of the service. They get to dictate the terms of use. That's just how it is.

The problem is about programmatically accessing the data in a way and volume REAL users never would. Especially when it negatively impacts the ACTUAL users.

I am speaking from experience here. A web scraper can induce a load of about 1000 users in a relatively short period of time and negatively impact QoS for actual users.

There's also the aspect of using my infrastructure for your profit. Why should the host pay for infrastructure so you can programmatically use the website like a data / web service for your own profit?

I'm just saying, equating web scraping to real users usage just isn't accurate, and for the hosts, it has REAL cost implications. Again, speaking from experience here.

honestly, if the data is that valuable to the scraper, they should ask for access to a web or data service. It is WAY less burdensome on infrastructure since it only sends data, not entire web page markup + and scripts etc. If the owner of the data isn't interested to expose a data service for you, it's probably because they aren't interested or do not have the resources to do so (possibly because ity isn't lucrative for them from a cost-value perspective) and if so, why is it fair to leech it and incur excessive loads on their servers "just because its on the web"?

Google does WAY more that web scrape at this point. Google realized a LONG time ago that web scraping is inefficient. They do it as a last resort, but they tend to have businesses register and supply various information to them to get their pages to show in search results. This is a way better model.


RE: So let me get this straight...
By Strunf on 11/8/2013 8:21:29 AM , Rating: 1
"Web servers, db servers, and other infrastructure for hosting web sites often aren't set up for the types of synthetic load web scraping generates. It is not manual human traffic, its automated and the loads are several orders of magnitude greater than that anticipated traffic for the anticipated users."
This is total bullshit, a single person looking for a certain article store by store would do the same "damage" only at a slower rate, actually it SAVED a lot of resources on the Apple webserver, think about it, he runs the script once and then save the data, then the users instead of going to the Apple website and look for whatever they want they go in his website, if 1000 people do it then it's 1000 LESS people searching on the Apple website.

"Just because its on the web doesn't mean you can programmatically access it no holds barred. If the website bans the practice, its because it isn't available for that purpose. The Apple site is not a database service, its a web site. Big difference, especially from the business side."
Google, Bing, Yahoo and many other do it all the time no questions asked, they go as far as to index all the products you have, correctly indexing what people really care about SAVES bandwidth.

"This leads to REAL QoS problems for the REAL users, just because some scrappers want to generate a data service where none exists."
It doesn't, if 1000 people use this guys webpage it's 1000 less people that will be hogging the Apple webserver. If people were using his website it's pretty clear it was offering something Apple website wasn't. He was providing a service "no less important" than what Google, Bing and other do by indexing and make it easier for the user.

"Why jump to conclusions without grasping the ENTIRE problem and just reflexively assume Apple is evil and wrong always?"
Maybe cause Apple is known to try to keep everything under control to the point of bulling just about anyone.


By YearOfTheDingo on 11/6/2013 12:58:50 PM , Rating: 2
The site does make it harder for Apple to get rid of slow moving items. Often consumers will settle for what they can get when a store doesn't have an item in stock. If everyone manages to find exactly what they want then all them 16 GB iPad Air would end up just sitting around, costing Apple money.


hrmm...
By hfm on 11/6/2013 2:02:29 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe Apple should send a takedown notice to Google et. al. for scraping their pages and including them in search results...




What a @#!@@**@!
By DukeN on 11/6/2013 2:06:11 PM , Rating: 2
How dare he prevent the iDeities from selling their less popular shit via bait-and-switch?!?

Oh the iOutrage!




advice to Apple-Tracker.com
By milktea on 11/6/2013 4:25:21 PM , Rating: 2
How about releasing a software that users could run on their own PC to scrap data off of Apple's servers.

For example, a firefox addon that would 'simultaneously' make requests to check inventories from all apples stores and report back in a tabulated format right on the browser.

So instead of running off of one particular domain. Now requests come from thousands of domains. Let's see how Apple could shut that down.




Apple at it's best
By mike66 on 11/6/2013 5:43:58 PM , Rating: 2
Apple does not want anyone to do anything useful with it's products, it would set a precedent which nobody else including itself that could be followed.




"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch














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