What We Should Learn From Comic Creators Censoring Themselves For Apple

from the it's-still-their-fault dept

On the heels of Tim Cushing's story about Apple threatening removal of a comics app due to what it deemed to be adult content, leading me to wonder whether Apple realizes that their devices are indeed used by adults throughout the world, it's worth highlighting something Cushing mentioned somewhat briefly. Beyond the obvious problem of Apple's clearly arbitrary morality, and even beyond the struggle of that comics distributor having to parse out what to do with their product, is the chilling effect walled gardens like Apple's app store have on everyone else.

Consider what occurred the past several days with Comixology and their comics app with respect to a specific book, Saga #12. Initially there was a fervor of anger at Apple, including by the creators of the comic themselves, over what appeared to be a banning of that book due to depictions of homosexual sex. As it turns out, it wasn't Apple who had censored the comic, but someone at Comixology instead. Comixology issued a letter of apology to their customers and to the creators of the Saga series, while also noting that Saga #12 will indeed be available in the app after all.

As a partner of Apple, we have an obligation to respect its policies for apps and the books offered in apps. Based on our understanding of those policies, we believed that Saga #12 could not be made available in our app, and so we did not release it today. We did not interpret the content in question as involving any particular sexual orientation, and frankly that would have been a completely irrelevant consideration under any circumstance. Given this, it should be clear that Apple did not reject Saga #12.
After hearing from Apple this morning, we can say that our interpretation of its policies was mistaken. You'll be glad to know that Saga #12 will be available on our App Store app soon. We apologize to Saga creator Brian K. Vaughn and Image Comics for any confusion this may have caused.
It is tantalizing to take the easy way out, blame Comixology for the screw up, and all go on with our days. It wasn't Apple's fault, they say. However, you can only reach that conclusion if you fail to understand the plain meaning of words in Comixology's apology. The only way to interpret this is to say that, yes, they self-censored the content in their own app because they feared the consequences of not doing so and running afoul of Apple's sincerely illogical attempt at being the morality police. This is the inevitable result of creating the walled garden, an Eden if you will. Either you conform to the rules of whatever overlord suits you in this analogy, and you are therefore limited in your freedom and expression, or else you act free and risk being expelled from the so-called paradise. Those that wish to remain in the ironically named Apple's walled garden must not attempt at biting from any forbidden fruit and must take overly-protective steps to ensure they don't appear to. As one commentor at Kotaku put it:
A sign that Big Brother has won is when you start censoring yourself, instead of simply speaking your mind and stand the critics afterwards.
Indeed. Fortunately, unlike any Adam or Eve, Brian Vaughn and Image Comics have other, less trodden upon gardens in which they can play should they choose. And for creators of anything not aimed at school children, it's beginning to become more and more necessary that they choose exactly that, or risk obtaining the wrath of a so-called partner that sees itself as a god.



Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 9:20am

    I know what I learned

    I learned not to use Apple's store. To be fair, I learned this pretty early on in the life of the app store, not because of this particular case.

    Still, the chilling effect is spooky. It's too soon to tell, but Apple's walled garden could end up being corrosive to the entire industry, not just iDevices. I suspect the chance is small, but it warrants keeping an eye on.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2013 @ 9:22am

    For Apple, used by children, it is damn if you do and bankruptcy if you do not.

    Just think of all the "Just think of the children" law suits and the risk of being labeled a porn company if they do not.

     

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  3.  
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    sqlrob, Apr 17th, 2013 @ 9:23am

    Re: I know what I learned

    Why do you think the chance is small? Look at all the apps that end up in the various Android marketplaces as well. Why do you think they would add back things they took out for iOS?

     

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  4.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 9:23am

    I just want to say that we 14-year-olds living in basements appreciate Apple's efforts to keep us safe from the evils of real life.

     

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  5.  
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    Fin, Apr 17th, 2013 @ 9:23am

    bible

    I assume the bible isn't on the app store? There is some really nasty stuff in there.

     

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  6.  
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    artp (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 9:26am

    A suggestion for changing the terminology

    Sex is a wonderful thing. It it hadn't existed, we would have had to invent it.

    But sex also correlates with an increase in intimacy. And sometimes that intimacy crashes. I would prefer not to suffer so many crashes. It's a personal choice.

    I prefer to call "adult content" "arrested adolescent content". If I can't take it with me through an adult day - at home, in the community, in the office, or anywhere else I, or you, may go - then it isn't truly adult content. Adult sex is something that lasts and improves over time.

    Sometimes, sex can be too important to leave to silly, casual, uncommitted encounters. It is so attractive that we can do stupid things in pursuit of it. Thus the occasional reference to "thinking with the gonads instead of the brain".

    I will still translate if you don't change, though. :-)

     

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  7.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 9:46am

    Re: Re: I know what I learned

    I don't. But the Android markets are also chock full of apps that aren't available for the iPhone. Those developers don't care about Apple's policies.

    I expect this trend to continue. I am both an iPhone and Android developer, but have dropped the iPhone because iPhone development is far more hassle than it's worth (due to the policies of the marketplace, not due to technical reasons). Even if I develop an app that is unacceptable to Google's Play store or Amazon's app store, I can still sell that app to Android users.

    I've been hearing more and more smartphone developers dropping iPhone for the same reason. In such an environment, Apple's influence outside of iPhone is limited, and shrinking.

     

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  8. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Apr 17th, 2013 @ 9:47am

    "Apple ... devices ... used by adults" -- Hmm, nope, haven't seen THAT.

    You go wrong from premise. Apple is the Disneyland of tech: hokey fantasies designed for kids, prices artificially high because of luxury snob appeal.

    In other words: Apple users are essentially all 14-year-olds living at least figuratively in mom's basement, thinking they make a difference against the onslaughts of big business by tweeting protests to Congress-people.

    Apple's shiny products are made in slave-labor factories/barracks where they have to put nets up to stop suicides. Any business which hangs on with Apple is just willfully blind to the veneer of morality and smiley face that mega-corp Apple puts on to hide the actuality of where their products come from.

     

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  9.  
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    DannyB (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 9:48am

    Re: Re: I know what I learned

    > Why do you think they would add back things they took out for iOS?


    Because adults with money might pay for those things missing on iOS.

    Adults might buy Android because:
    * they don't want to be told what they can see, read or hear
    * they don't want to be told what size, color, style, shape, feature combination, carrier, manufacturer or price of phone they are limited to

    Some people call it a walled garden. Others call it a police state. The Google Play store is messy, like democracy. In a police state, you can feel safe to walk in a dark alley at 3 AM. Android is the worst mobile platform, except for all the others.

    Finally, if a developer doesn't add something back in on Android that they self censored for iOS, then someone else on the Google Play store will provide it. There's more than one of just about anything on Android.

     

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  10.  
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    DannyB (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 9:52am

    Re: bible

    How could Apple allow the Bible in their app store when it has things like Ezekiel 23:30, and more?

     

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  11.  
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    DannyB (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 9:53am

    Re: Re: bible

    Should proofread. The link is correct, but its title should be Ezekiel 23:20. The 30 was a typo.

     

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  12.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 9:53am

    Re: "Apple ... devices ... used by adults" -- Hmm, nope, haven't seen THAT.

    Um no...not all Apple users are 14 year olds living in their mom's basement. My apartment-mate/landlady is 27 years old and has an iPad 2. Granted, she's not exactly fully computer literate, but it does what she wants it to do. So wanna try again at casting everyone in the same net?

     

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  13.  
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    Chris-Mouse (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 10:06am

    Re:

    so when is Apple going to pull the most used Porn app in the garden?Apple's Safari web browser can access all that porn that Apple says is unacceptable on an iOS device.

     

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  14.  
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    saulgoode (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 10:27am

    Role reversal

    "Today we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created for the first time in all history a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests of any contradictory true thoughts.

    "Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause.

    "Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!"

    -- an advertisement from 1984

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2013 @ 10:33am

    Re: "Apple ... devices ... used by adults" -- Hmm, nope, haven't seen THAT.

    "Apple users are essentially all 14-year-olds living at least figuratively in mom's basement..."

    OotB is an Apple user?

     

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  16.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 10:46am

    Re: "Apple ... devices ... used by adults" -- Hmm, nope, haven't seen THAT.

    Proving your idiocy once again? Some things never change.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Cowherd, Apr 17th, 2013 @ 11:07am

    "As a bitch of Apple, we have an obligation to respect its policies..."

     

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  18.  
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    gorehound (profile), Apr 17th, 2013 @ 11:40am

    Re: I know what I learned

    I would not touch Apple even if it was given to me for Free and for a Lifetime.
    I refuse to Support their Walled-In Garden and I knew right from the beginning that this type of thing is a very bad philosophy for all of us Consumers.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2013 @ 3:50pm

    Clever use of the Streisand Effect?

    What a clever ploy from the App-side! First, they "have it banned" generating more hype and publicity than it would otherwise have, and then, when noting that it was mistaken self-censorship, they effectively force Apple to accept it...

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2013 @ 7:19pm

    Re: "Apple ... devices ... used by adults" -- Hmm, nope, haven't seen THAT.

    I want to visit this alternate universe you have invented for yourself. Are there tickets available?

     

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  21.  
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    heath, Apr 18th, 2013 @ 7:36am

    America is all about censoring yourself

    >A sign that Big Brother has won is when you start censoring >yourself, instead of simply speaking your mind and stand the >critics afterwards.


    Welcome to a free society.
    You are free to think what you want but not to share that thought. Actually, i dont even think you are allowed to think it.

    There are many, many topics that you cant broach without being attacked.
    You CAN NOT in any way shape or form criticize Israel or Judaism. Zero.

    You can NOT have a differing opinion on homosexuality and the topics surrouding it. You HAVE to like it, you have to shout it on the rooftops is seems.
    Nothing by 100% compliance to the cause is allowed.
    You can not say that the idea of two guys drilling each other makes you want to vomit.
    You can not say "give them spousal benefits and all the legal rights of common law spouses but marriage is a religious endeavour and no, its not up for change."
    You HAVE to support the agenda of a small minority of people.
    You HAVE to applaud at the idea of Elton John buynig kids at 69, not be disgusted by it. But you can criticize Madonna or the psycho Jolie when they do it.

    Apple is not any different than america, it is a perfect reflection of a violent society that exports death across the globe, can show autopsies, zombie brains at 8pm but the very idea of a breast on TV is enought to start a fatwa.

    Its totally fair game to make fun of christianity and the various whacko offshoots which pollute the country but can you make the same criticims of judaism and islam? Of course not, the fear of lawsuits and the fear of violence is very present in both cases.

    I could go on for hours but Apple is not any different than the culture which spawned it.

     

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  22.  
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    Aaron Wolf (profile), Apr 18th, 2013 @ 12:51pm

    Re: "Apple ... devices ... used by adults" -- Hmm, nope, haven't seen THAT.

    Do people just automatically report out_of_the_blue's posts?? This comment is perfectly fine and worth restating. Apple is like Disneyland, and childish fantasy world, complete with all the problems and injustices of that sort of controlled environment. Why did people flag this comment?

     

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