Why didn't the phone companies sue Steve Jobs for hacking their system with his Blue Box?

Why didn’t the phone companies (AT&T , Bell Labs etc) sue Steve Jobs and Wozniak for financial damages caused b their Blue Box? What he and Wozniak did was illegal. I’d be interested to know how much money his Blue Box cost the phone industry? I look forward to your feedback.

"The two stopped making the boxes after they were nearly caught by the police. Despite giving up on the venture, they reportedly made about $6000 selling the blue boxes and Wozniak claims he once was able to prank call the Pope, posing as Henry Kissinger. The Pope unfortunately was sleeping at the time, so he wasn’t able to talk to him directly. Draper claims he once successfully prank called President Nixon using his own blue box.

Since the mid-1990s, blue boxes no longer work in most countries as phone systems throughout the world have been revamped using a digital system and no longer use the in-band signaling that the blue box exploited. Specifically, the new system separates the voice and signaling channels."

In order to prevail in a suit you must be able to prove damages and who did it.

The fact the blue boxes completely buffaloed their billing systems means they had exactly zero records of anything being amiss.

Kinda hard to prove a damage with no evidence.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak weren’t the only ones making and selling blue boxes. The technology was reasonably well known, and they had been told about it by other people. Some of the people using/making/selling them were caught by the police, but others (including the two Steves) weren’t.

That sounds like patent infringement–something that the feds, rather than local police, would go after them for. Of course, the phone companies could also sue them.

Huh? What patents were being infringed?

The use of blue boxes was well covered under ordinary fraud and service theft statutes.

The Steves did not suffer consequences because they were simply not caught.

If someone breaks into your car with a screwdriver, can you sue the screw driver manufacturer ? the screw driver is just a tool, it has many legitimate purposes.

There’s no question until you forensically how the law suit strongly argues Jobs and Woz IS liable.

The blue box could also be used by a company for legimitate purpose.
The blue box is a tone generator, much like a DTMF generator, as found on any analog phone… to dial… the tones… in band dialling tones… Blue box used other frequencies than DTMF, so not just any phone would do it, but the blue box was just a modified DTMF generator…

Also a MODEM might have been used instead of a blue box… Especially the acoustic coupled modem. (places at the handset of the phone.)

Note that they were also teenagers, filing a lawsuit against someone with no assets typically does not end up well as far as the financials go.

The cost to the phone companies from phreaking was fairly small and the phone companies also tended to depend on the the potential federal criminal charges as a deterrent.

Also as a side note, I do not know many people whom were in the computer industry in that era whom don’t smirk when they see a “redbox” by a 7/11.

That’s not how patent infringement and enforcement works.

I don’t see any evidence that the blue box was patented:

Patent infringement is usually a civil matter. Neither the Feds nor police are likely to get involved.

Please indulge the nitpick: These are both in the subjective case and should be “who,” not “whom.”

Well, who knows what kind of “enforcement” the telephone companies would use-- even the kind that is clandestine and outside the law?

If they’re using some kind of extra-legal means of coercion, doesn’t that rule out the FBI? I mean, even if the FBI is stepping over legal bounds, it’s still a law-enforcement agency.

As Ernestine the Bell Operator used to say

The FBI is small beer compared to power like that.

The Phone Cops!

FWIW, the actor Bob Cummings was arrested in Seattle in 1975 for using a blue box. The article lists the charges he faced (obtaining service and possession of the device). Jobs and Woz would have faced similar if not greater charges.

One thing to note in the article is that a PNWBell spokesperson said it was the first case in a while of someone using a blue box. I think these were fairly common in the early 70s (I went to high school with a guy who later went on to make them for certain “good” fellows in SF.) I would have expected more frequent cases.

Maybe the phone company couldn’t track down blue box users all that well if the users were cautious. E.g., using pay phones a lot, not using the same phone twice, etc. It sounds like Cummings was not smart.

The power of The Phone Company was sufficient to be used as a major plot point in The President’s Analyst (1967).

As a member of a telephone-company family myself I would not necessarily agree with Lily Tomlin’s writers.

In the short of her on SNL she actually said, “We don’t care, we don’t have to! We’re The Phone Company”

This is going back a ways, but in Robert Cringely’s great Triumph of the Nerds miniseries I remember Wozniak saying that although Jobs wanted to go into business selling them they never really got beyond just charging other college kids small fees to make calls to keep themselves in ‘pizza money’.

I also remember, from a book I think, that when IBM was looking for an OS for their upcoming PC and they met with the nascent Apple hippies they were more than a little off-put by Wozniak’s bragging about having invented a device which was, to them, nothing more than something to illegally pirate services from another corporation.

Good knock-off skit.

But she said similar things about the untrammeled power of the Telephone Company in many of her skits on the original Laugh In. And in one such skit she actually did say “We’re Omnipotent!” Pronounced very distinctly. And then proceeded to haughtily & icily explain what that word meant to her off-screen complaining caller who didn’t know the word.

That’s potent with an omni in front of it.

(starting at about 1:47)

Perfect. I looked on YouTube but didn’t bother to watch all the chunks it found to see if that skit was one of them.
I haven’t seen that since it (& me) was new in 1970ish.

Thanks a bunch.