Apple vs. 'Flypaper' vs. common sense

Apple didn't become Apple by taking its brand lightly and lawyers will be lawyers … always.

Nevertheless, I remain puzzled by the notion that someone bright enough to work at Apple – even the most risk-averse attorney -- could convince himself or herself that the owner of a $500 iPad might actually use the gadget to violently dispatch an insect.

Yet here we have the tale of Apple vs. "Flypaper," an iPad app ad that proved not long for this world.

On the blog recently we found ourselves speculating about whether Apple was behind the sudden disappearance from YouTube of "Flypaper," a newspaper's funny ad that depicted a Dad "forgetting" that an iPad is not a rolled up newspaper and using it to swat a fly … with predictable results; the iPad shatters into a million pieces and we all get a good laugh. (The ad's point was that the iPad is as good or better than a dead-tree newspaper for most but not all purposes.)

My initial thought was that Apple's involvement in the ad's widespread disappearance was inconceivable – no company could be that touchy – yet in my heart of hearts I was hoping that it would prove to be true. The video had gone seriously viral, at least before the most widely distributed copy disappeared not only from YouTube but a whole bunch of news sites and blogs, including my own (yes, that made it a bit more personal).

The newspaper responsible for the ad, New York's Newsday, told me: "We have taken the commercial 'Flypaper' down and its short, glorious run appears to be over." Newsday would not say why and Apple did not respond to my request for comment.

That left me free to think out loud: Of the parties involved in the commercial's production and distribution, either directly or indirectly, who other than Apple would conceivably be anything other than thrilled by the fact that it went viral?

Newsday? Thrilled. See "glorious run."

The artists who conceived and shot the video? Thrilled. They live for viral.

YouTube? Unlikely.

That would seem to leave Apple.

The next morning I got my answer when I opened an e-mail from someone purporting to work at Newsday and asking that his identity not be revealed.

"Newsday got a cease and desist letter threatening all of our apps, if we did not remove the commercial immediately. They took exception to the fact that the (iPad) glass shattered into large jagged pieces ... Your instincts are correct."

I could not confirm the authenticity of this e-mail nor vouch for its accuracy, but it rang true at the time and still does. And, if true, we have yet another classic example of lawyers needlessly sucking all the fun out of life.

So what if the glass shattered in the ad? No one was paying attention because the absurdity of swatting a fly with an iPad was just too funny.

Meanwhile, as of this writing there are still rogue copies of "Flypaper" alive and well on YouTube, if you still haven't seen what caused this kerfuffle. Just search on "Newsday iPad."

Even Apple can't erase the Internet.

Sending me inside information about the inner workings of your company is always encouraged. The address is

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

This story, "Apple vs. 'Flypaper' vs. common sense" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon