Apple Targets iOS 6 Beta Activation Sites

Apple has begun issuing legal notices to sites that resell developer access to its iOS mobile operating system, it has been confirmed

Apple has begun actively shutting down websites that sell access to developer test versions of its iOS 6 mobile operating system, it has been confirmed.

Some developers have engaged in the practice of reselling beta-test versions of iOS to the public, selling it as a way of getting access to a new version of iOS months before its official release.

iOS beta sales

Developers who pay Apple $99 (£64) per year for access to iOS test releases are able to install the software on up to 100 devices – identified by a Unique Device Identifier (UDID) – for testing purposes. A number of “UDID activation” websites resell these installation rights, usually for about $10 per device.

However, following Apple’s announcement of iOS 6 at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) on 11 June, the company has begun cracking down on UDID activation sites, apparently spurred by an article on technology website last month that highlighted the practice.

iOS 6 is set for release in the autumn, when it will be provided free of charge to iPhone owners.

A number of UDID activation sites have gone offline, while others – including, one of the most popular such sites – became temporarily unavailable around the end of June before resuming operations.

Fused, a Seattle-based web hosting company, confirmed it had received warnings from Apple related to several of the UDID activation sites it hosts. Fused said it had received takedown notices from Apple under the US’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

“Apple has been fairly heavy-handed with the DMCA requests to the ones we host,” said Fused chief executive David McKendrick in a Twitter message on Friday.

DMCA requests

Apple has in the past reportedly cancelled some developer accounts over beta software resales, but McKendrick said the DMCA requests are a new tactic.

“This is definitely a new move on Apple’s part,” McKendrick told the BBC on Monday.

He said the crackdown is unlikely to be successful, as many UDID activation sites are simply shifting to hosting companies based outside the US.

Software reselling is a controversial issue, with vendors typically seeking to restrict customers’ ability to resell software that is no longer needed. Last week, however, in a ruling with potentially far-reaching implications, the European Union’s Court of Justice ruled in favour of resale rights in a case involving digitally distributed software.

Oracle had sued a German company called UsedSoft, which specialises in reselling software licences, on the grounds that the company’s activities violate copyright laws. The court ruled that UsedSoft is allowed to resell the licences, even if restricted from doing so by the software’s licence agreement, as long as the original owner ceases to use the software.

Resale rights

Such resale rights are already recognised to apply to software distributed via a physical medium such as a CD or DVD, but the court ruled that this applies also to digitally distributed software. Those buying such software licences should be considered “lawful acquirers of a copy of a computer program”, the court ruled.

The iOS issue is, however, different in that the developers involved are not reselling developer accounts that are no longer in use, but are rather dividing up and selling UDID activation rights that are intended for beta-testers.

In the past Apple has pointed out that its developer programme licence agreement prohibits developers from providing beta software to anyone other than registered employees, contractors or others with a need to use the software to build and test applications.

At the time of publication, Apple had not responded to a request for comment from TechWeekEurope.

iOS 6 adds 200 features to the platform, including new maps, an updated Siri, Facebook integration for Contacts and Calendar, and a new Passbook app, according to Apple.

“iOS 6 continues the rapid pace of innovation that is helping Apple reinvent the phone and create the iPad category, delivering the best mobile experience available on any device,” Scott Forstall, Apple’s senior vice president of iOS Software said last month.

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