Killing Innovation: The iPhone Developer Program License Agreement...
Give it up for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Yesterday they managed to (legally) blow the lid off the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, and now we can all take a look at just how oppressive Apple has become to developers.
Basically, whenever someone or some company wants to create an iPhone app, they have to 1) register as an official developer with Apple by signing a license agreement and paying $100, and 2) submit their app for approval before it's listed in the App Store.
Here's the rub. Once you sign the agreement (copies of which are extremely scarce), Apple prohibits people from making any "public statements regarding this Agreement, its terms and conditions, or the relationship of the parties without Apple's express prior written approval."
In other words, you're not allowed to speak out and criticize it. Think about that! A curb on speech and commentary as a prerequisite for writing a dumb computer program. That's why you undoubtedly haven't heard too much about this tyranny before.
Well, the EFF has found a loophole. When they saw the "NASA App for iPhone", they used the Freedom of Information Act to ask NASA for a copy, so that the general public could see what rules controlled the technology they could use with their phones. A copy of the license agreement can now be found here.
I recommend reading the entire Agreement as well as the EFF's summary, but, in a nutshell, the license agreement...
- Bans developers from making "public statements" about the terms of the Agreement.
- Stipulates that developers can only distribute their apps on the App Store, and bans them from distributing their apps on competing app stores.
- Prohibits any type of reverse engineering (in spite of the fact that the courts have ruled that reverse engineering for interoperability is legal under the Fair Use Doctrine).
- Stipulates that, no matter what, Apple will never be liable to any developer for more than $50 in damages. As the EFF says, "So if Apple botches an update, accidentally kills your app, or leaks your entire customer list to a competitor, the Agreement tries to cap you at the cost of a nice dinner for one in Cupertino."
Apple has been able to get away with this simply because it is the sole gateway to the 40 million iPhones in circulation. And the reason we should all be concerned is that "no competition among app stores means no competition for the license terms that apply to iPhone developers."
What's needed is an emulation of what's worked for PCs for nearly 30 years... separate the software market from the hardware market. Competition and innovation suffer when customers and developers are "locked in" to one platform for life. Instead, just like with PCs, there should be many competing software developers for each platform, thereby creating a wider, more diverse array of products that are priced according to market principles rather than monopolistic controls.
The EFF has done us all a real service by tracking down Apple's license agreement. Now it's our turn to all speak out. Indeed, Apple has been acting as "a jealous and arbitrary feudal lord". Developers should demand better terms and customers who love their iPhones should back them.