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Tech support blog removes Toshiba manuals after legal letter

Laptop-maker says service manuals contain proprietary info

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

An Australian blogger whose site offers an archive of service manuals for laptop computers has complied with a request from Toshiba Australia's lawyers to remove the company's documentation from his site.

Tim Hicks' Future Proof blog is the field service's engineer's personal project and aims, he told The Reg, to provide a resource for laptop owners seeking drivers or service information.

“I started it when I worked in a computer shop,” Hicks told The Reg. “It just grew and grew. People will dig up an old laptop and want to play with it, but it is hard to find the documents. I thought collecting them would be a public service.”

The manuals on the site are service manuals, documents intended to help those willing or authorised to repair computers, rather than documentation for end-users.

Hicks' blog says Toshiba requested he remove the service manuals on four grounds, one of which is that they are copyrighted material. The blog also says Toshiba argued “We are concerned that by providing the manuals to unqualified person [sic] you may be endangering their well-being” and that “The manuals are only available to Toshiba authorised service providers under strict confidentiality agreements.” The laptop-maker also feels the manuals include “proprietary information”, presumably regarding laptop design.

Hicks says the likes of Dell, Lenovo and HP make those documents available for the public to download, but Toshiba distributes them only to authorised repairers. Hicks finds that peculiar, but nevertheless complied with Toshiba's request as he has no desire to become involved in a legal dispute.

Hicks has removed the manuals from his site and says correspondence from Toshiba indicates the company is satisfied the matter is at an end. He will, however, continue to post service manuals to his site.

“It has been argued that I am doing a public service,” he said. “It is better for those manuals to be out there. If the laptop is out of warranty, what does the vendor care?”

Toshiba said, in a statement issued to The Reg, that "It is company policy that Toshiba (Australia) Pty Limited does not make its service manuals available to the general public.” ®

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