I Can't Hear You, Continued
While my car can do 75 mph (120km/h) through residential areas, I can choose between applying the acceleration or the brake pedal. Similarly, if you blare whatever it is you listen to directly into your ears at unsafe volumes, then that is your choice.
In the case brought by Mr. Patterson, he claims "millions of consumers have had their hearing put at risk by Apple's conduct." To my mind this conjures up the image of Steve Jobs dressed in a gimp suit and using a Master iPod remote control to force up the volume on your player, doubtlessly as Paul Otellini clamps the buds as closely to your inner ear as he can get them.
Of course, this is not what Patterson or his legal representatives are thinking (one hopes). The plaintiff's case points to iPod literature, which uses phrases such as "crank up the tunes" and "bring in the noise," while claiming that the manuals are "not sufficiently adorned with adequate warnings regarding the likelihood of hearing loss."
Apart, of course, from the section in the iPod manual entitled "Avoid Hearing Damage," which even goes so far as to note that while you can grow accustomed to listening to loud noise over a period of time, it'll still do you damage.
The iPod manual hasn't been the only source of warnings about potential hearing loss, and apart from common sense and education, either in schools, at work or through general information campaigns; there has been a multitude of warnings from various experts and even old rock stars about the dangers of loud music.
Whether or not Apple will be able to defend itself against the claim within the strict confines of the law will be decided in a San Jose courthouse. But before the floodgates open and every Tom, Dick and Harry in the audience starts developing sudden cases of tinnitus as they pass Lady Justice, let's sit back and talk frankly for a moment.
I couldn't tell you how many people I've sat next to in an airplane or passed in the street, from middle-aged businessmen to teenage schoolgirls, who were playing their music so loud I could hum along. It's not the player manufacturer's fault they're listening to loud music; it's their fault. Just now because some clever codger is able to point out crafty phrases like "bring in the noise" in the marketing material does not change this fact.
Ambulance chasers everywhere are going to go radio gaga if the plaintiffs can at least demonstrate that they have a legally-solid case, regardless of whether they win or not. Why not, it's potential easy money? I've spoken to many who use Apple iPod's, Creative Zen's and Sony Walkman, and they agree that such a case on their behalf would be a fairly easy way to land some big money.
Our society has a propensity to blame things on the guy who has a lot of money. "It's not our fault we're going deaf!" will be the cry from punters all around the world in the coming months if Apple loses the case. They'll lose a lot of money and digital media players everywhere will join such notables as coffee mugs with "Warning: Hot!" and packets of peanuts with "Danger: Contains Nuts!" written on them.