EFF Publishes Full Apple iPhone Developer Agreement, Blasts Apple Over Key Points

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Date: Wednesday, March 10th, 2010, 06:11
Category: iPhone, News

Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation both posted a recent version of Apple’s confidential license agreement to which all iPhone, iPad and iPod touch developers must agree as well as took a critical stance against the document.

Per AppleInsider, 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.”

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available and if you have something to offer on this, please let us know.

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2 Responses to “EFF Publishes Full Apple iPhone Developer Agreement, Blasts Apple Over Key Points”

  1. I really don't see the problem.

    The prohibition against public comment is obviously meant to prevent companies from turning an argument with Apple into a public brouhaha in an attempt to bring public pressure on Apple. I'd do that too in Apple's place.

    Not allowing apps developed with Apple's tools to be distributed elsewhere keeps the jailbroken community choked off.

    It has already been acknowledged by Apple that the kill switch is there to kill possible malware. I think it's brilliant!

    While $50 is a bit stingy, any company is going to limit their liability where possible. No issue there either.

    Where's the beef?

  2. Not to be a dork, but doesn't apple have a right to protect their IP? I mean, let's face it, they have been burned more than once by people piggy-backing off their IP (MS, Google, etc.)
    Is it a one sided agreement, probably. But they are offering the opportunity to others to make money off their IP in such a way that they still maintain the ability to protect themselves and their valuable customer base from fraud and attack. In my mind, there is one thing that Apple gets that most don't, and that is the value of the installed/ customer base. it was, afterall, the mac-nazis (of which I consider myself loosely associated with, lest one think that I am errantly slandering the mac faithful) that almost sigle-handedly kept the company afloat 'til Steve Jobs arrived back on the scene. And I think that Steve learned something from them- build a loyal customer base and take care of them and protect them from harm (not like google did with their virus-prone wannabe phone os… unfortunate b/c competition is good, but poor ripoff hurts everyone).

    Am I naive enough to believe Steve is completely benevolent- not a chance. He is a dictator, pure and simple. But as I said before, he knows how to give most customers what they want and make it work most of the time very well. The final hook- most of the products are a pleasure to use and easy to remedy any issues that may arise.

    All of this is to say that security, ease of use, reliability, and good support require a high level of control. Don't like it, don't play in their playground. But don't dare think for a minute that other tech companies don't want what apple has- you would be the delusional fanboi.