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Apple Cuts Off Under-18 Darwin Developer 815

Crispyking writes "Finlay Dobbie has been a leading contributor to the Darwin project, most notably helping track down the infamous PPP-hang bug. He's been nominated to become a Darwin contributor (which comes with limited check-in privileges) but when going through the process, Apple found out he's under 18 years old, and not only refused to let him be a contributor to this 'open source' project, but canceled his Apple Developer Connection membership (which gives him download access to the source code) on the grounds that because he's under 18, he can't be legally bound to the small-print agreement." Update: 03/26 00:26 GMT by P : Finlay wrote in email that he wasn't getting the Darwin source through his ADC account, but through a third party development project, which he resigned from as a result of all the red tape and the ADC account being disabled.
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Apple Cuts Off Under-18 Darwin Developer

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  • So . . (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SanLouBlues ( 245548 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:34PM (#3223581) Journal
    They're throwing away his donated code then right?
    • Re:So . . (Score:2, Funny)

      by cbodine ( 539161 )
      They should.

      Welcome to the Open Source Movement , we will take anyone?

      As long as you are a single white male over the age of 18 and under the age of 40
      and have a love for the corporate giants that do stupid stuff like this.

      Iam joking about the above , but it does bring up a point how open is open source.

      I see where Apple is heading but it is just plain dumb.
    • Re:So . . (Score:5, Insightful)

      by maroberts ( 15852 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:46PM (#3223751) Homepage Journal
      They're throwing away his donated code then right?

      Actually you may have a point; if they use code that he's hitherto submitted and now recognise he's not bound by the license then by rights the implicit agreement with which he gave them the code may also be invalid [i.e. assignment of copyright!]
      • Re:So . . (Score:3, Informative)

        by kevinank ( 87560 )
        In the United States at least this is something that comes up all the time. Child actors for example often have to enter into contracts with the studios producing their movies. I don't know how you would go about doing it in the UK, but here there is a legal process for becoming recognized as a legal adult. (Though it doesn't confer the right to vote, drive or drink, just the ability to enter into a binding contract AFAIK.)
        • Re:So . . (Score:5, Informative)

          by kevinank ( 87560 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @06:31PM (#3224668) Homepage
          FWIW, the US legal term for a youth who is legally recognized as an adult is "Emancipation". There is a pretty good write-up on the legal meaning here [].
          Emancipation is a legal process in which a minor (a person under 18) petitions the court to have herself declared a legal adult. Emancipation laws vary from state to state, but generally emancipation ends the parents= legal duty to support the minor, and also ends the parents= right to make decisions about the minor=s residence, education, health care, and to control the minor=s conduct. However, it does not mean that the minor is the same as an adult for all purposes (for example, voting and alcohol-purchase age laws are not affected by emancipation). The extent to which an emancipated minor is treated as an adult varies from state to state, but emancipated minors generally can enter into binding contracts, sue and be sued, establish a residence, and consent to medical treatment on the same basis as adults.
    • Re:So . . (Score:3, Funny)

      by mmaddox ( 155681 )
      What's a house-elf to do!?
  • But a lot of coders, especially open source are very young (let's face it - they have more time and less responsibilities) plus young minds tend to be the most creative and brilliant before they become brainwashed by Micro$oft corporate values. Surely this is wrong.
    • I disgaree that young coders are best. As I disagree with the idea that Indian coders are the magic bullet to the US programmer shortage. As I disagree with all such sweeping generalizations.

      Having been a young programmer once, I will not dismiss them out right. However, they are just like any other group of programmers: some are good, some are bad, and some are somewhere in between. They ae no better skill wise and no less brain washed than "older" programmers. To their disadvantage, many (but not all) young programmers have limited experience that can sometimes hurt them. But then they are usually very conscious of this and often try to compensate by working their brillant young minds into the ground, overcoming lack of experience with incredible amounts of code. So perhaps it all evens out.

      Of course, I could be posting this objection because I am neither a young nor an old programmer--and I see the eventual age discrimination on the horizon ;-)

    • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @05:14PM (#3224038)
      I agree. They are the best for OSS projects. They're young and naive and can easily be persuaded to work for free. As soon as the rent comes due, no more free code.
  • Right...sort of... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cirrocco ( 466158 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:36PM (#3223601) Homepage
    Apple is technically within their rights here, and it's even (arguably) a good idea. It's a shame that he can't contribute, but Apple needs to protect themselves from liability. Of course, they could accept his contributions via a proxy, I believe, and thus allow him his contributions. Still, it's a shame that we have to do this nowadays...
    • by petree ( 16551 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @05:31PM (#3224189) Journal
      Not only is apple within their rights here, but they must actually exercise this to protect future rights. As with many contract law situations, just like infringment suits, often times you must act on the issue soon after being notified of the breach of contract. If apple were to "overlook" the fact that he was under 18 and then something did happen down the road (like they found out he had really been stealing someone elses code and contributing it) they would have no defense if suit were brought against apple for using that stolen code. They knowingly licensed software (although it was a free license) from someone who could not be held responsible for said contracted software. Had they not known he was 18 -- then they would be in a legal gray area. But since they do know, if this situation happens there would be no question and apple would get wrecked in this suit.
  • by Ravensfire ( 209905 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:36PM (#3223603) Homepage
    This sucks for the kid - but I can understand where Apple is coming from. Being a minor, NO contract he agrees to is valid - he could do anything he wanted to with whatever information he gets from Apple.

    I understand the minor concept, and where it came from, but maybe this hard and fast rule needs to be reevaluated. But what would the criteria be?
    • Legal Guardians (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hotsauce ( 514237 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:45PM (#3223736)

      Can't his parents co-sign or something? I can't believe Apple Legal can't come up with something. They are not showing much concern for someone remarkable who has contributed so positively.

    • Maybe if the coder's parents signed, it would work. Also, certain states allow "removal of restrictions of nonage." This allows a minor to become a legal adult. In Florida, it just requires you to take your kid to the court house and sign some forms.

      There must be some solution of ther than simply kicking the coder off the team. I didn't join ADC when I was under age, but I did write plenty of Mac programs. I don't see how throwing away young talent is a sound business practice.
      • by JabberWokky ( 19442 ) <> on Monday March 25, 2002 @05:00PM (#3223915) Homepage Journal
        In Florida, it just requires you to take your kid to the court house and sign some forms.

        Specifically, it can even be used (in Florida) to only apply to a particular contract, a copy of which is included with the forms. It came up when we were fighting the curfew laws here (my little brother, who is a US citizen, was the first person in North Palm Beach to get hit with them - the judge threw out the case, calling the law "ridiculous". Gotta love the three branch system).


    • Model it on the law for child actors, who are heavily protected.
    • by Ranger Rick ( 197 ) <slashdot AT raccoonfink DOT com> on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:51PM (#3223809) Homepage
      But he had already had a contract with another part of Apple for earlier development, with his parents co-signing, and Apple was fine with it. They seem to be deliberately screwing him rather than making arrangements like before (and screwing themselves... Finlay's a force to be reckoned with, he's put a lot of effort into OSX).
      • Being a minor, NO contract he agrees to is valid - he could do anything he wanted to with whatever information he gets from Apple.

      Dear Junior, because we can't force you to play nice, we assume you'll play nasty.

      Oh yeah, great message. Add in the MPAA/RIAA's "You're all thieves and liars that need to be controlled" and we've arrived at a really enlightened society where everyone you don't have a strangehold on is assumed guilty.

      You know, I seem to remember a couple of strange old fashioned concepts called "trust" and "good faith", but then I'm getting on and my mind may be playing tricks on me.

      • Then why have contracts for ANYONE?

        Face it, contracts exist to protect BOTH signatories. If a contract protects one but not the other, it's not a very good contract for the "not the other" party to enter into.
  • by mosch ( 204 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:37PM (#3223612) Homepage
    This is an outrage! Finlay should not be punished for wanting to work at such a young age! He should be encouraged!

    Oh, and btw Finlay, can you get me that re-licensed version of Darwin you said you'd get me, through that whole legal clause/age loophole? THe one where I'm the copyright owner?

  • What about EULAs? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Foulman ( 552815 ) <jgt&nc,rr,com> on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:37PM (#3223616)
    Not bound to fine print eh.. does that mean he could do whatever he wanted with purchased software, ignoring EULAs since he's not bound?! perfect! reverse engineering and hacking for everybody!
    • Re:What about EULAs? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Stonehand ( 71085 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:56PM (#3223875) Homepage
      No. The EULA is the only thing that grants him any rights to use the software; if it's invalidated by his age, he has no rights regarding it except, perhaps, to sell it under the first-sale doctrine.
      • Re:What about EULAs? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ChaosDiscordSimple ( 41155 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @05:16PM (#3224053) Homepage
        No. The EULA is the only thing that grants him any rights to use the software; if it's invalidated by his age, he has no rights regarding it except, perhaps, to sell it under the first-sale doctrine.

        The claim that you have no rights to use software if you don't agree to the EULA is still being debated and has not been well tested in court. I certainly don't need any sort of EULA for other copyright protected works I purchase (music on tape, record, or CD; books; magazines; movies on videotape or DVD; console video games; arcade games; sheet music; etc). Copyright only restricts the right to make and distribute copies. Personal use (including copies for personal use) has never required any sort license agreement. The claim that installation or copying into RAM to run software represents some sort of restricted copying is as silly as claiming that making a tape copy of a CD to listen to in the car is restricted. So why is computer software somehow different?

        Don't buy into the software industries claim that you have no rights to a product you purchase. It's on shaky legal ground and they know it. There is no reason for citizens to let them extend copyright in this new way without a fight.

      • That's not necessarily true. If the EULA were invalid for whatever reason, the software would be covered by standard copyright law. This means that you wouldn't have the right to distribute copies (i.e. make copies for friends). However, it WOULD mean that you WOULD have the right to make copies for personal use, and could therefore legally install Windows XP on every computer in your house if you were of such a mind, something that the XP license does not allow you.

        The key is that EULAs don't grant rights. You're not asked to agree to the EULA until after you've already bought the software, so you would by default have the right to use the copy you've purchased, in the same way that buying a dead-tree copy of a book gives you the right to use that book. The EULAs restrict rights that you would normally have by virtue of buying that copy of the software. By clicking on the "I agree" button or whatever other method of coercion the software vendor chose to implement, you are (technically speaking) "agreeing" to concede certain rights.

        To sum up: You have certain rights to use a copy of a work you've bought. EULAs seek to add restrictions on top of the ones imposed by copyright law. So, nullifying an EULA would indeed be a Good Thing.

      • Re:What about EULAs? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ewhac ( 5844 )

        The EULA is the only thing that grants him any rights to use the software; [ ... ]

        Absolute horsesh*t.

        EULAs are a legal fiction and have no force or validity whatsoever.

        The fictitious need for a "license" at all stems from an impossibly boneheaded court decision made in the 1970's which stated that the act of loading the software into memory for the purposes of execution constituted an infringing copy (the copy just made from disk to RAM), and was not covered under Fair Use. Ergo, a license was required.

        The merest child could see how stupid this ruling was. Eventually, Congress got around to amending copyright law to expressly allow loading a program into RAM. So the highly specious need for a "license" from the vendor no longer exists. Like books, music, and videos, software is sold.

        However, this idiot ruling from the court (which still serves as a crucial reference in the history of IP case law) serves as a jumping-off point to illustrate the unsustainability of the existing copyright regime in the light of modern digital media: Congress expressly gave you the right to make a copy in RAM. But what about that copy on your hard disk, which you copied from the CD-ROM you bought? If you've got enough system RAM, there's probably a complete copy of the work in the filesystem cache. Is that allowed? How about the copy in the read cache of your disk drive and/or disk controller itself? What about those fragments sitting in the L2 cache of the CPU, or those even tinier fragments in the L1 cache?

        "Licensing" is not a reasonable or workable model. Copyright law needs to be fundamentally reengineered to live in the modern world.


        • Re:What about EULAs? (Score:3, Informative)

          by bnenning ( 58349 )
          EULAs are a legal fiction and have no force or validity whatsoever.

          Amen. We need to stop pretending that EULAs have any more legal force than the statement "by reading this message you agree to pay me $1000".

          Congress expressly gave you the right to make a copy in RAM. But what about that copy on your hard disk

          Actually 17 USC 117 [] allows copying if "such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner", which should cover "copying" to your HD, RAM, cache, etc.

          Here's something else I just thought of: publishers claim I need a license to run their product, which I allegedly agree to when I run the installer. But by that reasoning, I had no right to run the installer in the first place, since I hadn't agreed to a license prior to running it. Ergo, if shrinkwrap licenses are valid, it is impossible to legally install software.

    • Re:What about EULAs? (Score:5, Informative)

      by youngsd ( 39343 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @05:05PM (#3223956)

      I am a lawyer, but what I'm about to say is not legal advice. I would need to look at specific statutes and case law to come up with a specific answer -- this is just off the top of my head.

      In most states, a contract entered into by a minor is voidable by the minor, rather than void. That means that the minor can (before reaching the age of majority, I believe) decide to declare the contract void, and then it is as if the contract had never been entered into. This doesn't apply to certain contracts, such as purchases of "necessaries".

      So, without having looked at how this may have been applied with respect to licenses, my guess would be that a minor could declare a EULA that has been agreed to as "void". But what does that get you? Using the software without a license would likely constitute copyright infringement, and being a minor doesn't help you there. No EULA means no license, so use of the software may be off limits.

      Remember, the EULA is not required to make it illegal to make copies of software for friends -- copyright does that all by itself. The only reasonable purposes for EULAs that I've ever heard of are warranty disclaimers, limitation of liability, and no-reverse-engineering clauses. Copyright law gives the publisher everything else they need.

      Of course, if anyone has any idea what the actual case law is with regard to minors and EULAs, they should pipe up, as I may very well be wrong. (Have I covered myself enough?)


  • Its not the brightest of solutions but they do need to protect themselves since he isn't legally able to agree to any legaleze. There are also laws about what information they man collect if someone is under 18 (and I don't see if he ever mentioned it before). Doesn't their signup form request an age ?
  • Eye for an eye? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by karot ( 26201 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:37PM (#3223623)
    I suggest he excercises his copyright on the code he has written until they change their minds...
  • 16 years (Score:2, Insightful)

    I thought you were legally able to sign contracts at 16, not 18. If I were him, I'd check on that.

    Personally, let the kid code, obviously he's good. Get his parents to sign a guardian contract, I'm sure they're aware of his abilities, and it would make an excellent entry on a resume in the future.

  • by fgodfrey ( 116175 ) <> on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:38PM (#3223628) Homepage
    Apple probably has more to think about here than just "can this guy be held to the click-wrap license". There are laws in various states regulating labor for people under the age of 18. I know I had "fun" with this when I worked paid theater shows in high school. Since Apple is going to take this and sell it, couldn't his work be considered "child labor"?

    This sounds like such a boneheaded descision, though, that it must have come from their legal department.

    • Sadly, this seems like the case.

      While I don't like the idea of those under 18 getting cut off from the development cycle, all it would take is some over-ambitious state attorney to say "Hey, Apple's got this kid working on code - and he's not old enough to enter contracts" - and then Apple would have to get into court and explain to a bone-headed Judge and lawyer that the kid volunteered to help, nobody paid him, etc.

      Sad the legal shit we have to do to protect our asses sometimes. (Like me - I have to wear a warning label at all times stating how wonderful I smell so women don't go into a sexual frenzy around me. I hate that label.)
  • Now with most laws, he could get his parents to sign the contract releasing such problems, but, he obviously violated the TOS. The government has said that anyone under 18 can't make decisions for themselves, and must have parental consent. Get that consent, problem solved.

    Don't go ragging on Apple for this - if they weren't taking these steps, I'm sure a case could be made for child labour law violations.

  • by rblancarte ( 213492 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:39PM (#3223651) Homepage
    I get why they are doing this. I mean lets be honest here. Apple is a smart company. They want to have the best people working on their projects.

    At the same time, they also have legal issues which they have to deal with. Which is what this under 18 issue is all about. Now this is in no way age discrimination. Many different things could be argued about the whole issue of being under age etc. Basically when it comes to certain contracts and stuff, if you are under 18 they don't apply to you (why do you think there are so many web sites that say - if you are under 18, you need parents permission?).

    IMHO Apple needs to get some sense. They obviously have a talented programmer on their hands, why not have his parents get in on the deal (ie - they sign the agreement) while he is under 18, and when he is legal, THEN let him do this on his own.

  • Back in the 1980s, many companies were willing to work with

    The day when being a great programmer was the top priority may be gone. Now the first concerns are all legal issues.

  • by lw54 ( 73409 ) <<lance> <at> <>> on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:41PM (#3223668)
    because he's under 18, he can't be legally bound to the small-print agreement.

    The problem isn't with Apple. It's with the US legal system. I've never been a fan of Apple but don't punish them for something that isn't their fault. Instead of griping to Apple, gripe to your congressional representatives on how current laws are stifling our countries competitiveness on a global scale.

  • What about licenses? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by aberkvam ( 109205 )
    Apple has a point here. In most places minors can not enter into legally binding agreements. This brings up an interesting point. What about licenses like the GPL [], the Artistic License [], or the Apache License [], to name a few. If a minor releases software under one of these licenses, do the licenses apply or are they invalid since the minor can't enter into a legal agreement? How does the law treat a minor's ability to control how their work is treated?
  • by gtx ( 204552 )
    i fail to see how apple's covering their own ass is really all that bad. sure, they may have been a bit heavy-handed, but they were only doing what any sane entity would do to avoid a possible legal fiasco
  • Co-signer for NDA? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kdgarris ( 91435 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:41PM (#3223678) Journal
    Couldn't a parent or guardian co-sign the NDa agreement to make it legally valid?

  • by Dutchmaan ( 442553 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:43PM (#3223705) Homepage
    It seems that this could set quite a precedent for a lot of kiddies to abuse any EULA for almost anything.

    What a great time to be under 18... no restrictions on your software usage, it would be unenforceable!
  • Typical CYA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Visigothe ( 3176 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:43PM (#3223714) Homepage
    Apple is just trying to cover their own colective arses. Here's the deal, say some sub-18 year old kid decideds to take/steal someone else's code [from work, from a friend, etc.] and then submits this code to Apple. Apple likes the code, so it gets included in the Darwin source. Later it is found that the code is actually the IP of aome other company, Apple gets litigated into oblivion, as the code is sitting right out in the open. Apple has no recourse on the sub-18 year old kid.

    Apple is not evil, they are just covering their own arse. Yes, I do agree that kids under 18 should be allowed to contribute, but the problem is that Apple is a corp. They need some way to make sure they are protected. "Signing" a document is a good way to do that. Falsly filling out a form is not a solution, it just makes matters worse.

  • Does that mean that next time i want an oracle installation I can benchmark I should have 16 year old install it sho he isnt bound by the terms.

    This is STUPID on apples part, this guy showed an affinity and a brightness devoted to apple. They have now alienated him to some degree.

    Now that said , if he isnt legally bound by the terms, He could RE-Liscence the code he already wrote and Apple would be forced to remove it.

    Thats it lets alienate our developer base.
    I asked for certain GPL code, modified by Apple and had a hell of a time getting it (no it wassnt on FTP and per GPL didnt need to be, but I litterally had to talk to their legal dept before getting the code sent to me through the written offer clause)

  • Kids (Score:2, Insightful)

    by johnpelster ( 531169 )
    I'm 15 and have been an avid Mac evangelist since 1993, when I got my first Mac.

    So this kid has been "an avid Mac evangelist" since he was 6!? I'm getting so tired of hearing young people complain how the get no respect and then tout themselves as having 9 years of experience because they've owned a computer that long.

    I'm young myself - 23 years old - but I know that I have to put my time in the industry and pay my dues. I don't have 15 years IT experience becuase I had a Commodore 64 when I was 8. I don't have 8 years UNIX experience because I plyed with MUDs in highschool.

    Sure, this kid helped out, and he should be proud of what he's done. But this is business, and Apple needs to be able to protect itself legally. Hell, this kid isn't even old enough to pull the french fries out of the McDonald's grease!
  • I really hope that they are able to work this all out. That makes sense from Apple's legal department, but not from a desire to get good code written. Perhaps they can speak with his parents and arrange for them to sign an authorization on his behalf. I really hope that a good solution can be found.

  • by Havokmon ( 89874 ) <rick AT havokmon DOT com> on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:48PM (#3223786) Homepage Journal
    Only in America are students considered to have zero rights, yet all of a sudden, you turn 18, and having sex with a classmate can put you in jail.. (In WI, you'd be branded a child-molester, and the police would notify any new neighborhoods you want to move to.)

    He could be tried for Murder as an adult, but can't program for a big company?

    Are there any exceptions that are POSITIVE?

    • That's a very ignorant point of view. Perhaps you aren't aware that exactly 567648000 seconds after you are born, something happens. For every person, this happens at the exact same second, with the exact same result:
      • You are intelligent and mature enough to vote.
      • You are intelligent and mature enough to buy cigarettes.
      • You are intelligent and mature enough to pay State Farm insurance less money.
      • You are intelligent and mature enough to operate heavy machinery at your job.
      • You are ingelligent and mature enough to ... contribute to Darwin.
      Of course, based on more sound research, we have concluded that consuming beer is prudent exactly 126144000 seconds after that. You can even run for President when you're exactly 1103760000 seconds old.

      NOTE: Your body's natural development cycle may depend on any leap years within 1103760000 seconds of your birth. Of course. You really should know that.

    • And what about the totally valid, peer-reviewed research that demonstrates that a person's brain, in particular, those parts of the brain involved in judgement, are not fully developed until one is in their low 20s?

      There are valid reasons that a society cannot trust the young and require adults to be caretakers. Same applies to contracts, voting, etc. Your mind is NOT fully developed, your judgement is NOT clear. I'm sorry if you don't like the fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, or that your brain is not fully developed and, therefore, you need to have an adult to ultimately be responsible for you, but that is reality and if you don't like reality...then that just proves the point.

      Apple IS correct here. What they should do is allow the parent of a minor to grant permission and thus take all responsibility for their kid's actions. It is not reasonable (here comes the underdeveloped prefrontal cortex again - thus weakened judgement) to expect a company with liabilities and properties worth many millions to simply let someone who cannot (rightfully) enter into a binding contractual agreements have access to their properties. The correct thing to do is ask Apple to permit PARENTS/legal guardians to take on the liability for their kid's actions.

  • Play their game, sue (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nuggz ( 69912 )
    Fine play their game.
    Send a bill for your work. Sue for illegal distribution of your work.

    You obviously weren't able to legally transfer any copyrights to them, nor work without renumeration.

    This could be good leverage, either treat you like a person, or don't, not only the stuff that is to their advantage.

    It just pisses me off to see "minors" treated like they have no rights, when "adults" don't take responsibility for their actions either.
  • When I was working at Apple there was a 17 year old kid working there on Copland (MacOS 8.0 1.0) What's the difference? Oh maybe Apple is no longer an anything goes college dorm. (do they still do the weekly beer bash?)
  • Unbeleivable (Score:2, Interesting)

    by buserror ( 115301 )
    I always tought the lawyers at apple were BAD. but that story is really the cherry on the cake.

    Before lawyers ruled apple, they KNEW the 12 years old useless kid MIGHT become a professional developer and contribute to the apple world.

    I know first hand, I WAS one of those. I received free copies of 'confidential' documentations, free access to some developer resources, a bunch of encouragment, LOTS of patience and ultimately a few friendship with some apple people that date back like.. 20 years now!

    But then, I spent the last 20 years as a die-hard mac developer, writing many shelf software. so it DID pay to humor me when I was a useless and fuckingly curious kid.

    And now, the morronic lawyers decide to stick by their fucking law books and ENFORCE that to everyone with the sense to realize that age has very little importance.

    Burn them!
  • by bbum ( 28021 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:56PM (#3223867) Homepage
    (I wrote this at

    Finlay Dobbie published an article about how Apple effectively does not allow minors-- folks under 18-- to participate in the Apple Developer Program or contribute changes to the Darwin project.

    Unfortunately, Apple's policy is a reflection of the legal status of minors within the US. The policy is largely out of Apple's control!

    The problem stems from the whole COPA/COPPA [Children's Online Protection Act which morphed into Children's Online Privacy Protection Act or something like that] related set of laws.

    I actually have a bunch of pertinent technical experience related to COPA/COPPA in that CodeFab built much of the back end engine used by the site including the editorial tools used to manage content produced by minors.

    Basically, if you are under 18, you are deemed a minor and you do not have the legal authority to sign contracts, cannot publish or contribute content that falls under another party's copyright/ownership, and are otherwise severely restricted in a legal fashion.

    In other words, Apple cannot directly allow you to participate either as a Darwin contributor or as an ADC member because there is no legal way for you to effectively 'sign' the contracts required to be a member.

    While Apple could extend the program such that your parents or legal guardians could give permission for your participation-- effectively signing for you-- that would not actually be enough for you to participate in the programs. In particular, for content produced by a minor to be published in a forum visible to others, several criteria must be met:

    Parental consent must be obtained at least once.

    Every piece of content must be reviewed prior to being made available within a forum outside of the company that effectively 'owns' the content (in this case, Apple).

    If the parent's ever rescind the permission to use content, it must be possible to effectively "unpublish" the content. Imagine the implications within a CVS repository of, say, having to remove the changes in version 1.5 of a file that is now at revision 1.24...?

    When a piece of content produced by a minor is actually published, it must be published in a fashion that effectively hides the identity of the source. This part is fairly fuzzy in that it is hard to hide identity when a username is the user's actual name... but the law was not exactly created by folks totally familiar with technology.

    The bottom line is that Apple's -- and other companies -- hands are tied in this. They would have to put forth a tremendous amount of effort to make it possible for minors to participate. Even then, a minor could not participate in the full fashion and there is still implied liability.

    If you are in this position, your best bet is to have a parent/guardian sign up for the ADC account. As far as Darwin contributions are concerned, it will likely have to be done through some other resource who is of majority age.
  • by Eugenia Loli ( 250395 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:57PM (#3223886) Homepage Journal
    There should be exceptions to this rule. Their 18-year old rule makes business sense, BUT, think for a moment, that even Marcelo who is the MAIN maintainer for the 2.4.x stable Linux kernel is BARELY 18 years old and he started working as a coder to Connectiva Linux since he was 13 years old.
    And yes, I know someone who wrote his own operating system at his 16 years old, and he had his own company at 18.
    Apple should just make an exception this time for people like Finlay Dobbie, if he is indeed a good coder.
  • by shermozle ( 126249 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @04:59PM (#3223905) Homepage
    Well there's one lad who just learnt his first lesson on freedom and how it's not just about beer (not that he's allowed any).

    Perhaps he should come over to a free operating system?
  • by zachlipton ( 448206 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @05:06PM (#3223965)
    I'm currently 13 years old and am an active part of the Mozilla project. I also have an Apple ADC membership, so this is my official notice to Apple: Take my ADC membership away if you want my username is zachlipton!

    I realize that not everything is Apple's fault, it is just as much our legal system and our general philosophy of how we treat the next generation.

    In my involvement with opensource, the only times that I have ever been descriminated against my age was (a total and complete mess) and by various run-ins with child labor laws (I'll get to those in a minute).

    Creating policies like this hurts opensource and kids in general. Having to lie about your age to get a Yahoo email account is stupid and pointless. I know several very gifted and talented hackers, people writing the backend code for perl6, or working to make Mozilla/Netscape Composer just a little bit better who have done an incredible service to the community.

    Below is a bit of a rant on child labor laws that I wrote in October of last year:

    Also, and perhaps more importantly, how do the child labor laws which were created to protect kids from being chained to looms for hours making rugs or soccer balls apply today in the real world. I can't tell you how many stories I have heard (and experienced several personally) where kids have been turned away from great experiences because of these laws. Several years ago, I was set to TA at a tech camp that my school was running during the summer, only to find that I couldn't until I was 15 and only then with a work permit. About 8-10 months ago, I got a contract offer (by email) and a possible offer of full-time work from collabnet to do work for them with the Bugzilla bug-tracking system which I am a developer with. Of course, this offer was quickly dispensed with after I told them that I was 12 years old :) These kids of life-changing experiences are being blocked from kids as a result of laws intended to prevent child labor. This isn't an issue of my family being poor and needing to sell my soul to Silicon Valley so that they can eat. This is my wanting to do and learn more, something which isn't possible with a class on a college campus on java or web design.

    Internships are too rare, already struggling .com's can't afford to spend money (even though the intern is unpaid) on someone who will work mainly part-time and needs a full set of computers, software, etc and requires everyone else in the company to spend time to get the intern up to speed. Besides, who wants to hire a 13-year old? Even if they do, I don't think that they can without violating the child labor laws.

    What can we do to make the opensource community and the Internet at large a place where kids are welcome? Everyone talks about making the Internet _safe_ for kids, but don't we really have to do even more than that?
    • by 0xbaadf00d ( 543340 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @05:16PM (#3224056)
      I have to disagree with you about child labor laws. Why on earth would you want to have a full time job at 12 years old. You may have a higher IQ and be more intelligent than your average 12 year old, but you're still 12. You're a kid. You need to get out and do things that other kids your age do. You'll have plenty of time to slave away behind a desk when you're older. Get out now and enjoy your youth. These laws were created to protect children exactly like you!
  • by pgpckt ( 312866 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @05:14PM (#3224036) Homepage Journal

    Welcome to the new Apple Teen Coder Site! Watch our barely legal teens respond to your commands! These young teens can code in PERL, Java, and even go down and dirty with all the C varients. Watch Our barely 18 teens sign NDAs on GPLed software. Download the movies to your Apple and IPod. Watch them as they help evolve Darwin!
  • by fmaxwell ( 249001 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @05:43PM (#3224293) Homepage Journal
    "Here with a News 7 exclusive is Senior Technology Reporter Jim Wright."

    "Thank you Tom. It has just been revealed that Apple Computer, the corporate giant that manufactures the Macintosh computer line, has been using unpaid child labor to create the "operating system" that powers their successful computers. For those not familiar with the term, an operating system is a computer file that contains computer program instructions. These computer program instructions allow the computer system to operate -- hence the name "operating system."

    According to sources close to the case, young Finlay Dobbie, has worked for hundreds of hours for Apple computer yet never received any pay. Apple, instead, has formed a cult-like group that refer to themselves as the "Open Source Movement." This group convinced Finlay and many others to spend countless hours writing and improving computer programs for Apple's operating system -- which Apple then sells at a tremendous profit.

    When Finlay was released from the group, he staggered outside, pale, gaunt, and squinting his young eyes that have not seen sunlight in many months. I had trouble understanding what he was muttering exept for "pee, pee, pee" leaving this reporter wondering if Finlay's keepers have even been denying him the right to use a restroom.

    Sources at Apple computer refused to return questions, stating that it was a matter being handled by their legal department.

    Tom, back to you.
  • Let's fix this: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 3vi1 ( 544505 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @05:45PM (#3224310) Homepage Journal
    I'm a PC guy who's never owned an Apple, and I'm definitely not a minor (I'm 32), but I had to send them some feedback on this.

    I've included what I sent below, minus all the cursing (just kidding). Everyone else here who has the time, please send Apple something similar (be polite if you really want to help Finlay). I really hate to see this happen to a seemingly helpful, bright kid.


    I just read about Finlay Dobbie on I then read his complete story on his personal website.

    If what I read is correct and truthful, Apple has done a great disservice both to its users and itself. The fact that no alternative was given to this bright kid who had already made meaningful contributions to the Darwin project is shameful.

    I guess Apple's next move will be to disallow the sell of software to those under 18, since they can't be bound by the EULAs?

    By way of this feedback, I *beg* of you to forward this to someone in a position to do the following:

    A) Reprimand the person responsible for cancelling Finlays account without any written notice (even after the fact).

    B) Talk to the company lawyers and find out if there is a viable solution (parent co-sign, legal change of status to adult, etc.) that would allow Finlay to contribute to the project.

    In his writing, Finlay seems incredibly mature about this whole ugly incident. If someone were to approach him with a solution, I'm sure he would regain his faith in your company. An apologetic letter to him about the SNAFU would also do much to redeem Apple in the public eye (I'm *sure* some Apple-hating, PC using, reporter is going to put this kid on TV when they hear the story).

    I'm not Apple's biggest cheerleader, but I really enjoy having you guys around even if it's only to keep MS & the PC world on their toes. Please make right what is wrong.

  • by flxkid ( 171985 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @05:55PM (#3224386) Homepage
    I started developing when I was 9 yrs old. Because of California law, I wasn't able to actually get paid for my work until I was 14. At the time I was working as a developer for my Great Uncle's insurance agency doing corporate database development.

    This corporation is run by the books, so basically they told me I could do what I wanted, but that they wouldn't be able to pay me for my work until I turned 14.

    I've also been an active member of the development community for the product that I develop with ( I have given many speeches, even submitted source that was incorporated into the language, all while under the age of 18. Now of course I have no problems, I'm almost 21.

    But I've also used this whole 'under 18 no contract' thing to my advantage. It came in handy when dealing with a warranty contract on some equipment I purchased. I shouldn't have even been able to purchase a warranty, but they let me. Later when the product broke, I took it back and they told me that the contract stated that I had to send it in for repair, not bring it in for replacement. After pointing out to him that I was under 18 and he could get in trouble for even selling me a warranty, they promptly accepted the broken product and handed me a nice new box.

    So I used it for a threat. So what, all the same ;) Anyways, I see both sides of this story. I feel that I was being shafted while under 18, but I also used it to my advantage.

    In the long run, I would hope that something would come along to patch up this hole in contract law.

    I think in California that maybe this has been dealt with. I was able to open a bank account and even have a VISA before I was 18 because my father signed as a proxy on the contract. (He couldn't though access the money in the account, he was not a signor on account, just a contract proxy)


  • by FXSTD ( 468083 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @05:56PM (#3224388)
    You are under 18, you can
    Get married - May need parental consent in some places
    Be a father/mother -Greatest responsibility ever... (pay child support for 18+ years...even if you are married)
    Decide to end your child/fetus' life (don't get started on the pro/anti abortion thing ok)
    Wield the greatest weapon ever created (cars have killed more ppl than guns and bombs ever did)
    Serve life in prison for crimes
    Pay taxes
    Work at a burger shop (does this mean you may get fired because they cannot enforce the confidentiality agreement that keeps thousands of minors from giving up the ingredients to "secret sauce"

    List goes on.

    But you can't contribute in a meaningful way to anything meaningful that has to do with lawyers.

    By the way, the next shrink wrap EULA is getting opened by my 9 year old son......
  • by This Is Ridiculous ( 234241 ) <brentdax@[ ] ['cpa' in gap]> on Monday March 25, 2002 @06:32PM (#3224677) Homepage
    I'm a sixteen year old Perl and C hacker. I have commit priviages on Parrot [], and I've written at least five or ten source files and touched at least half of the files in the distribution.

    And I have to lie to do much of anything online.

    Within the OS community, I'm completely open with my age. Nobody cares about age--just skills. It's absolutely wonderful. The only other place I get that is in college classes.

    But on the rest of the Internet I have to lie. I have to lie to get an instant messaging account, a webmail address, access to a news site, some web space, or a chat room. I have to lie to get API data from Palm, Microsoft and many other companies. Some of these places make it exceedingly easy to lie--for example, one videochat site just has you hit the submit button again, implicitly promising that a parent is submitting th eform this time. In others, you have to jump through hoops to do it. But in most cases it's pretty easy to lie.

    It gets on my conscience, though. Every time I lie I feel like a cheat. Every time I pretend I didn't see the "by clicking this button, you agree that you are over eighteen" line, I feel like a bad person. But I do it anyway, because I can't do what I want and need to do otherwise.

    I understand that this is necessary because of contract law. However, I think that points to a deficiency in contract law, not in kids.

    I haven't thought very long on this issue, but at least one solution comes to mind. It follows the model of child labor laws. Before fifteen (which, incidentally, I think is older than is really necessary) you simply can't work. Between fifteen and eighteen you can work, but with restrictions on what you can do and how long you can do it for. At eighteen, you're free to sell your labor in any way you please.

    Perhaps similar provisions should be written into contract law. For example, between age X and eighteen, you can enter contracts unless they obligate you to pay money or do work.

    In any case, I believe that the current system is Evil and Wrong. We should fix it instead fo forcing kids to be liars.

  • by EvlG ( 24576 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @07:14PM (#3224987)
    I encountered this as well when working on Final Doom, a community doom add-on purchased and distributed by id Software. I was a leading contributor to the project, but was 15 at the time of the sale.

    The solution was for my parents to sign the agreement with me as well. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know why this was acceptable to id, but perhaps something like this would work for Apple as well, in this case?
    • I agree. AFAIK this should be sufficient. I've just submitted this to Apple's feedback page for OS X []:

      It has come to my attention that you have disallowed Finlay Dobbie the rights normally associated with the status of Darwin Committer and have later disabled his ADC-account, where these decisions were both based on his age. I am dismayed that you disallow this talented young programmer to work on Darwin. We should applaud and encourage this form of community service that benefits hundreds of thousands of your customers. His work has helped to fix a nasty bug that could lock up MacOS X for minutes. He has also added new functionality to the official Darwin distribution. I believe that his contributions and ability to carry responsibility should be judged based on his performance.

      I understand that you may be worried about the legal implications of working with minors. However, the laws that protect minors were never intended to keep minors from learning, contributing to society or taking responsibility. They do give parents the responsibility to monitor and (if necessary) steer their children. We cannot monitor and steer our children if they have insufficient freedom to make their own decisions. A proper education of our children depends on their ability to take responsibility. I urge you to contact the parents of Finlay Dobbie and ask them to sign the contracts that are necessary for someone to contribute to Darwin. This should be sufficient to guarantee that your contracts with Finlay Dobbie are legally binding and you can stop any violation of the contract under the authority of law.

      As your customer, I have always known Apple to be a company that tries to act ethically. This includes your policy of Equal Employment Opportunity that disallows your employees to discriminate "on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity characteristics or expression, disability, medical condition, U.S. Military or veteran status in recruiting, hiring, training and promoting." I hope and trust that you will not limit this policy to your employees, but will apply it to your contacts with volunteers that contribute to your products as well. I hope you will soon correct this error and make me a proud Mac-user once again.
  • by softsign ( 120322 ) on Monday March 25, 2002 @09:44PM (#3225793)
    So, 3 hours after you posted the story, after ~600 /.-ers have sounded off against Apple, after a few other stories to grab attention have piled up, and at the end of the business day you finally realize that maybe you should occasionally do some research.

    The reason? It turns out this kid's rant against Apple was missing one important detail... The one where we learn he was being provided developer access by someone who was violating a legally binding agreement. Maybe that's why Apple went all heavy-handed and cut off this developer's account? Oops.

    I feel sorry for the kid if he wants to hack Darwin and Apple won't let him contribute his code back. I don't feel sorry for the kid (or his co-conspirators) for doing an end-run around Apple's contracts and getting burned. Welcome to the real world - you better get used to it.
  • Great. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @01:35AM (#3226705)
    Nice to see how the other open-source developers in the community stood behind him.

    Or is the 'community' a myth.

    They should have all said "You lock him out, we all quit"

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