Digital rights group blasts Apple over iPhone developer agreement

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
The Electronic Frontier Foundation took a critical stance against Apple this week when the digital rights advocacy group posted in its entirety the confidential license agreement to which all iPhone, iPad and iPod touch developers must agree.



The foundation came to the conclusion that by controlling the App Store and preventing rival competition by blocking competing options, Apple's "future of computing" is headed towards an era that could stifle innovation. It suggested the Cupertino, Calif., company's actions have been that of a "jealous and arbitrary feudal lord."



"Overall, the Agreement is a very one-sided contract, favoring Apple at every turn," the EFF wrote. "That's not unusual where end-user license agreements are concerned (and not all the terms may ultimately be enforceable), but it's a bit of a surprise as applied to the more than 100,000 developers for the iPhone, including many large public companies.



"How can Apple get away with it? Because it is the sole gateway to the more than 40 million iPhones that have been sold. In other words, it's only because Apple still "owns" the customer, long after each iPhone (and soon, iPad) is sold, that it is able to push these contractual terms on the entire universe of software developers for the platform."



The EFF noted that public copies of the license agreement are "scarce," in part because the agreement itself prohibits its release. The foundation managed to obtain a copy by making a request to NASA under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, and presented what it felt were "a few troubling highlights." They include:



Developers, including government agencies such as NASA, cannot make public statements about the iPhone OS developer agreement.

Applications created through the development kit can be sold on the App Store only.

The iPhone OS cannot be reverse engineered, and the foundation asserts this even applies to methods that courts have recognized as fair use.

Apple can remove an application at any time. In 2008, a researcher discovered a "kill switch" in the iPhone software that would allow the company to remotely deactivate an application.

No matter what, Apple is never liable to a developer for more than $50 in damages. "That's pretty remarkable," the foundation said, "considering that Apple holds a developer's reputational and commercial value in its hands -- it's not as though the developer can reach its existing customers anywhere else."

The EFF has posted the iPhone OS developer agreement in its entirety, weighing in at just over 680Kb, on its Web site.







It isn't the first time the EFF has been outspoken against Apple. A year ago, the foundation and the iPhone maker fought with the U.S. Copyright Office over the act of "jailbreaking" the iPhone, a process which allows users to run unauthorized code. Soon after, Mozilla and Skype added their support for the EFF's motion for an exemption in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for jailbreaking.



The EFF also served as counsel for both AppleInsider and PowerPage after Apple attempted to force the Web sites to identify sources who provided accurate details of an unreleased hardware product, code-named Asteroid. A three-judge panel in the California Court of Appeals sided in favor of the Web sites and ruled that they were entitled to the same protections as conventional reporters.



Though the App Store for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad has been tremendously successful with over 3 billion downloads and 140,000 software options, Apple has also been criticized for leveraging total control over the download destination. In recent weeks the company has revised its policies and removed previously accepted applications that it felt contained overtly sexual content, and has also begun to crack down on the approval of software with minimum user functionality.



Apple's purge of sexual content from the App Store axed more than 5,000 applications and even mistakenly affected a swimsuit seller, though the situation was rectified in less than a week. Phil Schiller, head of worldwide product marketing for Apple, said his company wanted to make sure the App Store did not scare off potential customers, as numerous parents had become upset with what their children could access on the iPhone and iPod touch.



Though thousands of adult applications were removed from the App Store, some risque content from brands such as Playboy and Sports Illustrated remains for sale. Schiller said that those brands represent well-known companies with "previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format," which is why they remain for sale.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 119
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,743member
    The EFF is barking up the wrong tree on this one.



    The "open" alternatives to the iPhone aren't panning out, so Apple's closed model is vilified. Too funny.



    Yet virtually every developer and their dog seems to be choosing Apple's "closed" and "controlled" model. Interesting.
  • Reply 2 of 119
    adamiigsadamiigs Posts: 355member
    Apple can remove an application at any time. In 2008, a researcher discovered a "kill switch" in the iPhone software that would allow the company to remotely deactivate an application.



    Oh that's so wrong of them! Someone releases an app that turns out to be malicious and apple can kill it remotely! WTF is wrong with them BAD APPLE!
  • Reply 3 of 119
    asianbobasianbob Posts: 797member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post


    The EFF is barking up the wrong tree on this one.



    The "open" alternatives to the iPhone aren't panning out, so Apple's closed model is vilified. Too funny.



    Yet virtually every developer and their dog seems to be choosing Apple's "closed" and "controlled" model. Interesting.



    How are the alternatives not panning out? Last I've read, despite all the issues of "fragmentation", the Android Market shows no signs of shrinking or stopping. Only growth.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AdamIIGS View Post


    Apple can remove an application at any time. In 2008, a researcher discovered a "kill switch" in the iPhone software that would allow the company to remotely deactivate an application.



    Oh that's so wrong of them! Someone releases an app that turns out to be malicious and apple can kill it remotely! WTF is wrong with them BAD APPLE!



    I don't think it's as much about that as it is just the idea that they have to agree to a term where if Apple executives wake up one and and feel they don't like your app (for whatever reason), they can remotely kill it across every iPhone/iPod/iPad that accesses the App Store. Even if the app is non-malicious.



    Yes, my example is reaching, but that's probably exactly what the little voice in the back of the developers' mind says when they read it.
  • Reply 4 of 119
    ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    Were people expecting anything else from them?
  • Reply 5 of 119
    bawbaw Posts: 12member
    Oh puhleeeze . . . the privacy sky is falling again!
  • Reply 6 of 119
    tulkastulkas Posts: 3,742member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post


    The EFF is barking up the wrong tree on this one.



    The "open" alternatives to the iPhone aren't panning out, so Apple's closed model is vilified. Too funny.



    Yet virtually every developer and their dog seems to be choosing Apple's "closed" and "controlled" model. Interesting.



    Success!=right
  • Reply 7 of 119
    floccusfloccus Posts: 138member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The EFF ... presented what it felt were "a few troubling highlights." They include:



    Developers, including government agencies such as NASA, cannot make public statements about the iPhone OS developer agreement.

    Applications created through the development kit can be sold on the App Store only.

    The iPhone OS cannot be reverse engineered, and the foundation asserts this even applies to methods that courts have recognized as fair use.

    \\



    I'd doubt that any governmental agency would be allowed by their own policy to make statements about a private companies contractual agreement, except the general platitudes of "they're a valuable partner".



    As for the second two "troubling" points... Any application developed using the SDK specific for iPhone OS would need to be sold through the app store as that's the primary gateway for installing any application on the phone legally. Large corporations I know have a special exemption for internal software, but I'm sure Apple has some control over that distribution process as well. The only other option would be to develop your app specifically for jailbroken phones, which would then make most developers hypocrites for demanding a secure distribution system to protect their income. And reverse engineering of an OS is always stated as a restriction. What company would invest millions of $s into developing an OS and then tell anyone they could freely reverse engineer it w/o having released it as open source?



    The EFF may have it's good points, but just like Greenpeace they just go too far sometimes.
  • Reply 8 of 119
    Of course its one sided.. its APPLE'S store!! why would they make it easy for comptition to thrive in their own store?? that's retarded and NO other company in their right mind would do that. There is nothing stopping any other company from creating an app style store or another inovative store platform.



    Apple created the app store.. Apple created the idea of the app store. Credit where credit is due.. its not their fault no one else thought of it first.
  • Reply 9 of 119
    leithalleithal Posts: 64member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AsianBob View Post


    How are the alternatives not panning out? Last I've read, despite all the issues of "fragmentation", the Android Market shows no signs of shrinking or stopping. Only growth.







    I don't think it's as much about that as it is just the idea that they have to agree to a term where if Apple executives wake up one and and feel they don't like your app (for whatever reason), they can remotely kill it across every iPhone/iPod/iPad that accesses the App Store. Even if the app is non-malicious.



    Yes, my example is reaching, but that's probably exactly what the little voice in the back of the developers' mind says when they read it.



    Yet, they have never used the kill switch. They have stopped the sale of many apps, but have never retroactively removed an app for a phone - once purchased.



    For example they oppose apps such as NetShare which was banned, approved and banned again.

    In the end, it was removed from the store - yet still remains on my iPhone and many others - completely legally.



    They aren't idiots - they are not going to reach out and delete all of Google's apps on day. It most likely will never be used - but it's nice to know it's there should someone manage to slip a trojan app through the approval process.
  • Reply 10 of 119
    tulkastulkas Posts: 3,742member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rorybalmer View Post


    Of course its one sided.. its APPLE'S store!! why would they make it easy for comptition to thrive in their own store?? that's retarded and NO other company in their right mind would do that. There is nothing stopping any other company from creating an app style store or another inovative store platform.



    Apple created the app store.. Apple created the idea of the app store. Credit where credit is due.. its not their fault no one else thought of it first.



    1) No Apple did not created the idea of an app store. This is a commonly repeated fantasy. They didn't even create the idea of a App Store for mobile apps. They were just the most successful because they did it well. Well done!=perfect. There is always room for improvement.



    2) This has nothing to do with allow their competition to thrive in their store. I hope that is just a bad strawman and not an actual argument. It is one sided, not from the perspective of competition, but in terms of a contract between 2 parties, where the contract primarily and unabashedly favour one party. The devs are not their 'competition'..they are their partners. Devs are sort of an important part of a platform. WTF do you think they have WWDC?
  • Reply 11 of 119
    woohoo!woohoo! Posts: 291member
    Download it QUICK before Apple pulls a DCMA take down or something..



    http://www.eff.org/files/20100302_iphone_dev_agr.pdf



    Page:



    http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/03...-agreement-all
  • Reply 12 of 119
    danielswdanielsw Posts: 905member
    It angers me to see all these lazy bums attack Apple for being successful.



    A sane response might be that of being inspired by Apple's success and to then apply one's wits to being similarly creative, innovative, and successful, too, in one's own endeavors.



    But no, these are the insane reactions of parasites, scavengers, and criminals to infringe on patents and copyrights, to file frivolous law suits, and/or spread malicious and inciteful propaganda to at least attempt to defame Apple.



    It's good that Apple seems fully prepared to make stands against these malicious attacks.
  • Reply 13 of 119
    Nice to see them going after a closed ecosystem now after 25+ years of ignoring Nintendo, Sega and Sony's closed systems. What!? You mean you have to enter into an iron-clad developer agreement to make software for Nintendo, Sony or any game console in existance? Say it's ain't SO!



    Well, at least it's not like there's millions of game systems in existance. Whew!
  • Reply 14 of 119
    Dear EFF,



    If you don't like the App Store or feel it's unfair, please build a better mousetrap. Until then, we American's will believe in Capitalism - where the consumer ultimately makes decisions with their spending. It seems you're organization believes otherwise - good luck with that.



    -Much Love,

    Consumers
  • Reply 15 of 119
    kreshkresh Posts: 379member
    I repudiate everything these software socialists stand for. Their stance that software patents are morally wrong is asinine. They blatantly push their agenda of destroying IP rights, terrorizing corporations and spreading FUD. Not to mention they sue people and companies over violations in GPL agreements even when the author does not want them to do so.



    Like many other radical groups they have crossed the line from activism to outright terrorism!
  • Reply 16 of 119
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AsianBob View Post


    How are the alternatives not panning out? Last I've read, despite all the issues of "fragmentation", the Android Market shows no signs of shrinking or stopping. Only growth.







    I don't think it's as much about that as it is just the idea that they have to agree to a term where if Apple executives wake up one and and feel they don't like your app (for whatever reason), they can remotely kill it across every iPhone/iPod/iPad that accesses the App Store. Even if the app is non-malicious.



    Yes, my example is reaching, but that's probably exactly what the little voice in the back of the developers' mind says when they read it.



    it's not like you're running an app just on your phone. once you access a cell phone network you're subject to the carriers' rules and "network neutrality" doesn't mean you can do whatever you want. carriers have to manage traffic so people can call 911 or anyone else.
  • Reply 17 of 119
    asianbobasianbob Posts: 797member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Leithal View Post


    Yet, they have never used the kill switch. They have stopped the sale of many apps, but have never retroactively removed an app for a phone - once purchased.



    For example they oppose apps such as NetShare which was banned, approved and banned again.

    In the end, it was removed from the store - yet still remains on my iPhone and many others - completely legally.



    They aren't idiots - they are not going to reach out and delete all of Google's apps on day. It most likely will never be used - but it's nice to know it's there should someone manage to slip a trojan app through the approval process.



    The trojan app bit I completely understand. A small price to pay for safety across the board.



    I know Apple wouldn't be that stupid to kill an app from their devices world-over after it's been removed from the App Store, but I do understand the other side of the "concern".
  • Reply 18 of 119
    "Apple's "future of computing" is headed towards an era that could stifle innovation."



    That's one of the funniest sentences I've ever read....
  • Reply 19 of 119
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,889member
    I guess the EFF just wants to draw attention to these complaints, which is fair enough. But it's not clear to me that Apple is doing anything illegal. What Apple is doing is fine so long as they are not found to be a monopolist, and with far less than 50% of the smartphone market (and a tiny slice of the overall cell phone market), Apple is not a monopolist.



    In fact, Apple will probably never be a monopolist. Their vertical integration and limited range of product offerings means there will always be alternatives (even with the iPod, there are many alternatives out there). Yet this is not a bad thing for Apple -- it keeps the anti-trust police off their back even as they make near-monpolist profits thanks to their vertical integration.



    It turns out that an unexpected benefit (at least unexpected by me) of Apple's vertical integration is that they can actually amass considerable power and profits without being regarded a monopolist by the anti-trust authorities. Apple will probably pass MS in market cap within the next year or two, and yet Apple can escape anti-trust scrutiny. It's a pretty good situation to be in.
  • Reply 20 of 119
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,889member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DoctorBenway View Post


    Nice to see them going after a closed ecosystem now after 25+ years of ignoring Nintendo, Sega and Sony's closed systems. What!? You mean you have to enter into an iron-clad developer agreement to make software for Nintendo, Sony or any game console in existance? Say it's not SO!



    Well, at least it's not like there's millions of game systems in existance. Whew!



    Totally right on target. And so long as Apple is not a monopolist, everything they're doing is perfectly legal.
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