retropod Meet the DIY iPod Case Sony Killed: The RetroPod...

A follow up to “Sony’s War on Makers, Hackers, and Innovators” which is now making the rounds around the web and getting some great comments/discussions on the article (join in here).

I outlined seven examples of Sony punishing makers, hackers, and innovators, but saved the best one for its own post. Meet the 8th wonder of the world-of-Sony-suing, the retropod.

What’s the retropod? A case for an iPod made from an old Walkman, here’s what the maker said about it:

The RetroPod was a handmade iPod case created from a vintage Sony Sports Walkman shell. It was big, heavy, and yellow, and only mostly waterproof. You had to open the case to get at the iPod’s controls. I had a great time prototyping it, learning how to cast Nerf in the process! (But eventually settled on die-cut Neoprene)

After about a year of noodling around, I felt like I had a product I could sell. I convinced my friends Consuelo and Oraia to play the part of PBR-soaked Billyburg hipsters (instead of the decent, self-respecting punks they are in real life), and had a photo shoot during lunch in Madison Square Park (Flickr photo set here.) I marketed it as a retro-kitsch “love it/hate it” thing.

The completed case was sold for a hundred bucks (artisanal price), but there was also a do-it-yourself kit with some neoprene, measure drawings, and instructions offered for twenty dollars (DIY price).

What happened? Sony sent their lawyers after the maker…

“Sony recently learned that you are selling a case for carrying an iPod personal stereo that is made from a WALKMAN tape player. The product is being offered at your website at http://www.retropod.com.

Your use of casings for such a purpose is a clear infringement of the SONY and WALKMAN marks because it is deceptive. Consumers likely will be misled and deceived into believing that Sony is somehow connected with the iPod personal stereo when in fact it is not. Moreover, they will be misled into thinking that Sony is backward in its design of products and is going away from miniaturization, as the size of the tape player housing is quite large by today’s standards.

Accordingly, we demand on behalf of Sony that you immediately cease and desist from selling, or offering to sell or distributing your Retropod product…”

In my article “Sony’s War on Makers, Hackers, and Innovators” apparently a Sony employee via a friend’s Facebook wall said:

..with all due respect, I work for Sony. I don’t see anything in this article that is different than what any other manufacturer would do. Not sure why this guy blogging from his basement (and you) feel the need to single us out. while the statements that are presented in this article may indeed be true, it is hardly a full and objective account of the whole situation. We both know the real world scenario is that there are hackers out there that are just looking for an opportunity to hack into a system like a PS3 and mess around and cause some damage because they can! When they’ve had their fun, who is left with the job and expense of cleaning up the damage to both the customers and the brand? SONY, not the hacker who has turned tale [sic] and run! I don’t see how you can criticize any company for trying to protect itself from copyright infringement and potential security risks.

Stay classy Sony. I invited this Sony employee to post here, hopefully they will – and ideally they could explain why the RetroPod maker needed to be bullied away via “copyright infringement and potential security risks”.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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