Apple Drops Another Arbitrary Rejection On An E-Book App, Because Somebody Might Read The Kama Sutra With It

from the know-it-when-i-see-it dept

Apple’s double standards in deciding which iPhone apps to reject have hit plenty of developers. Apparently it’s fine to access any sort of content through the device’s web browser, but if you have an app that accesses anything Apple deems objectionable, it’s obscene and therefore blocked. The latest rejection along these lines is of an e-book reader which lets people download and read books from Project Gutenberg, a trove of digitized public-domain works. One book in its collection is the ancient Indian sex guide The Kama Sutra; in Apple’s eyes, the ability to access the book from the app is grounds enough to reject it. The app is simply designed to access Project Gutenberg, and users select which titles they want to read. The developer says he wasn’t even aware that The Kama Sutra was in Gutenberg’s archives, but he also points out that several other e-book apps can access it, while, of course, it’s also available on the web. The guy has now created a version of the app that specifically blocks access to The Kama Sutra, in hopes Apple will deem it acceptable. Fair enough, since he just wants to get the app out there. But it doesn’t make Apple’s arbitrary approval process — and the stupidity it regularly displays — any better. Update: And, once again, following a bit of press coverage, Apple caves. Still, it really shouldn’t take press coverage to force Apple to fix situations like this.

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Comments on “Apple Drops Another Arbitrary Rejection On An E-Book App, Because Somebody Might Read The Kama Sutra With It”

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Dan says:

I guess Apple assumes their customers are not mature and sophisticated enough to handle Kama Sutra. My parents have long ago passed on and if I did need a nanny it sure as hell would not be Apple. I am old enough to Steve Job’s father and someone needs to take him out to the woodshed and give him an attitude adjustment. When your ego gets in the way of your business its time to move on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Eh… I never really liked apples until one winter I worked in Redmond.

Seeing how scatterbrained they are when they dev software made me go mac. The rub was how few formal processes existed, and how scatterbrained they were. It was kinda enlightening, actually. I estimate 50% of the management is on ADD meds, and they don’t take ’em.

I suppose it’s one of those things where the best words are “You should have seen it”. or “It’s a glorious day when they produce something” Maybe that’s why they have all the parties.

“I farted!!”
“Well, that’s amazing, Bill. Let’s have a party.”

crystalattice (profile) says:

Apple is bipolar

Apple makes great hardware and the software is good. It even goes to extremes to show how much better Apple products are compared to other companies. Yet, by doing blocking some applications, it shows that retards are running the company.

I love Apple’s products but I don’t like its policies. The only reason I bought an iPod Touch was for the PDA functionality and music/video capabilities. Applications are useful but I still prefer a full-blown computer.

Thom says:

Oh, WTF??

Seriously, I love Apple products to death, but sometimes their polices are simply arcane; they seriously over-police just about everything. Is it possible they’re sketchy about getting sued because they sue everyone else? Considering Apple often claims to be an enlightened company in an enlightened state, this Puritanistic/scaredy-cat perspective is both short-sighted and ridiculous.

So there.

Bill M. (profile) says:


If you want a great example of Apple’s hypocrisy, try downloading the “Chat Rooms” app. This is a completely irresponsible chat app which asks no registration, does not let you block/ignore offensive users, has no private messaging abilities, no mechanism to report abuse, an easily circumvented “bad words” filter, and does not let you reserve a username. Indeed it doesn’t even prevent you from specifying a username already in use. The result is complete anarchy and filth, as there is no accountability on anyone’s part.

At any moment, you can log into one of the eight rooms and watch every disgusting, vile, and illegal thing you can imagine. While the room topics are such things as “Sports” and “Finance” the actual chat is 100% sex, racism, spam, drugs, and perversion. It’s not unusual to see 13yo kids (or at least those claiming to be) sending out their IM addresses, email addresses and even phone numbers in the open.

It makes a Yahoo chat room seem like a Sunday school social.

The very design of the application — oblivious to lessons learned from 20 years of other public chat rooms — is what enables this kind of behavior. Sure, chat rooms are never completely safe, but this one has so few controls, it’s criminally negligent.

Complaints to Apple have been ignored, and the review I wrote about this was not approved. (Indeed, there seem to be suspiciously few published reviews given the number of downloads.)

Here’s an example where Apple is continuing to distribute an app which — while merely annoying to adults — is patently dangerous to the millions of minors with iPod Touches.

It’s hypocrisy because Apple can apparently “think ahead” in the case of an eBook reader, but can’t see the obvious problems in an utterly unrestricted and unredeemable social app like this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Obscenity

Get off that high horse of yours, will you? Maybe you’re new around here, but the “think of the children” approach is the real hypocrisy in the view of many, if not most, of the techdirt community. On the other hand, what Apple is doing is:
a) pandering to the “think of the children” demographic
b) a little underhanded tactic because they might have other interests to protect (like a potential Apple eBook reader or something similar)
c) both
d) something else that just eludes me right now

What some don’t understand is that the Internet is a communication system and people should (I would say MUST, but that’s just me) be able to use it to communicate as they see fit. If ChatRooms offends you in any way, no one is forcing you to use it. Just move on to an app that satisfies your needs. That doesn’t mean that the people that enjoy it as it is now have to conform to your rigid moral views.

You are talking about “sex, racism, spam, drugs, and perversion”. Let’s take a look at each of these:
a) sex: if you don’t enjoy sex or talking about sex, that is your problem, not the problem of the rest of the world.
b) racism: even if it’s reprehensible, you won’t change the people by filtering it. Moreover, the whole concept of politically corectess has gone way off the tracks lately so I would hypothesize that some of the racist comments that you can find online is just a way of venting all those repressed feelings that have become taboo to express in real life.
c) spam: how do you define spam in a chat room? Are you talking about various advertisments? It wouldn’t feel like a chat room without them. As long as they don’t interfere much with the conversation, I think they’re actually welcome.
d) perversion: is in the eye of the beholder. What you find perverse may very well be normal for someeone else.
d) drugs: I left this at the end because this is the only topic that be attacked logically. It could be attacked because some drugs are illegal, but only because of that. On top of that, let’s check how the “War on Drugs” has been going… It is a huge waste of taxpayers’ money and the results are some more racism (because caucasians are almost always treated better than hispanics or african americans when it comes to enforcement), encouragement of criminal organizations (because without drugs to traffic, they would have no comparable source of income) and the perverse effect of drawing more people to drugs because it’s human nature to think “let’s try this because it’s illegal, so it must be at least interesting”. Remember the prohibition? It didn’t turn out so well in the end.

Bill M. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Obscenity

You’re missing the point. If Apple’s going to block apps based on obscenity, which is their choice, then it’s hypocrisy to ban something because it can access The Kama Sutra (a classic) while it approves of “Chat Rooms,” which seems to lack any redeeming value.

[Also, it strikes me you’re on a high horse of a different kind.]

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Obscenity

The point is that Apple shouldn’t be blocking apps based on obscenity in the first place, because obscenity is a relative concept. To that point, my opinion is that Kama Sutra shouldn’t even register as obscene in the first place. It should be considered educational material. So, yeah, I agree with you that I’m on a high horse in regard to this issue. Let’s agree to disagree.

Closer to your concern about ChatRooms, that app became obscene (by your standard) because of how people use it to communicate. Neverthless, in itself, it doesn’t offer access to any previously existing material that could be considered obscene by anybody’s standards. When Apple reviewed it, they couldn’t have anticipated how it was going to be used by the users. Arguing that in order to pass some arbitrary decency standards an app has to have certain features would be too much of a stretch, even for Apple. On the other hand, the eBook reader, can indeed access some content that could be classified as obscene. The real hypocrisy is that the same, idenical, content could be acessed by other means, so it’s not like the censorship has any effect other than to harm tha eBook reader’s developer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Obscenity

You have very low reading comprehension skills. Bill M was clearly not headed that direction with his post. If you just want someone to troll, try finding people who post things much like what you just posted, and call them names. It will work out much better for you than trying to sound intelligent.

layton says:

Re: Re: Re: Obscenity

I find it very interesting that whenever someone has a different point of view and is vocal about it, he’s automatically labeled a troll. When did criticizing become so morally reprehensible that you sholudn’t speak up for your point ov view?

This is exactly what Apple does best with its AppStore: self cenorship… and people seem to believe that’s how things should be. Think about it…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Obscenity

You have very low reading comprehension skills. Bill M was clearly not headed that direction with his post.

Bill was very obviously complaining that Apple wouldn’t ban an iPhone app that he didn’t like. If that’s not wanting to enforce nanny-like control, then what is? I think it is you that has “very low reading comprehension skills” if you can’t see that.

Windowslogy (user link) says:

Not sure the reason was Kama Sutra

I read the same topic on TechCrunch the other day. As I commented there, I don’t think Apple rejects the app simply because Apple doesn’t want its users access Kama Sutra. I don’t think Apple guys are that stupid. There must be some other reason they rejected the app: You have to find it out.

anon says:

Re: apple doesn't get it.

by Anonymous Coward – May 23rd, 2009 @ 4:46am
“when will they get it ? we buy hardware so that we can use it to its FULLEST capability but the manufacturers of said hardware who tout the capabilities then limit them . WTF?”

Believe it or not, Some people out there do actually buy Apple because its legal. Look at the I-Tunes store. Believe it or not, there just might be parents out there more likely to buy a product from vendors that put limitations on their hardware, so that their kids aren’t able to access “everything”. If you want the kamasutra, there are tons of other places to get it.

Bodeddie (profile) says:

I think everyone here is missing the real point. Once again Apple is taking the low road. Remember the all proprietary all the time days of Apple Hardware and Software? What they have could only be called monopolistic business practices when it comes to iPhone Apps. You purchase a piece of hardware, but to add functionality to it you must go through them. Developers of iPhone Apps are tied to the App Store as the only viable means of getting their software to the market. (I know about the direct licensing possibilities for rejected Apps, but they have already started tightening that noose, and it will probably be discontinued entirely.) The real problem here is that Ma Bell has raised her ugly head once again! (A bit ironic that iPhones are currently tied to AT&T, one of the three bastard children from the original break-up) Without jailbreaking the iPhone (which is technically a violation of DMCA) you are tethered to Apple’s teat like a newborn calf. How would you fell if HP or Dell computers would only allow you to run software bought from them?

The Cenobyte says:

Why do people like this company?

Why do people love these guys so much? They are a crazy, kind of backwards thinking, not sure what it’s own business model is, most abitrary IT company. Yet somehow they collect fans like rockstars. They are like those guys that made the jelly shoes, product was ok but not over the top great, price is to high, yet somehow everyone has to have some. Just don’t understand at all, does no one care about getting value for their dollar anymore?

Full disclosure I am a PC guy. Not a MS guy, a PC guy a number of OS and hardware and owned a few Apples back in the day (Can I hear it for the Apple II?!?!)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why do people like this company?

Loved the Apple IIe. But anyway, Apple is not an IT company, it is a consumer electronics hardware company who also provides software as needed with the hardware. That is an important distinction in my mind. The App Store does not exist merely to provide Apple with income, but instead exists to promote sales of the iPhone.

IanK says:

Apple doesn't block the Kama Sutra

Apple allows the Kama Sutra to be read using other apps. It just blocked this app. I don’t know why, but the reason is probably pretty stupid for everyone else except Apple.

Apple is run by a little dictator. The day Steve Jobs retires or dies is the day Apple starts improving. After all, part of the reason for their popularity is due to the design of the products, and Steve doesn’t design anything. It would be a greater concern if Jon Ives left.

Kat Miller says:

How stupid is Apple??

How truly stupid is Apple in their decision? I, for one, cannot see the sense with it-it will only drive Ipod/Iphone users to find other avenues to what they want. Idiocy on a grand scale (especially for Apple) should not be tolerated by those that pay these outrageous prices for those silly Ipods/Iphones… Apple, if you were thinking straight, you would see the potential to make massive money off of this, (not like you are already ripping your buyers off.) =)

Anonymous Coward says:


I wonder what would happen if there were to appear a (satirical) letter writing and petition signing campaign demanding that Apple remove the web browser from the iPhone because it can access objectionable content? “Think of the children” and all that. I bet it would be amusing to see Apple’s reaction. Hmm?

Anonymous Coward says:

I agree with my fellow Anonymous Coward, Apple probably has an eBook reader in the works and killing its future competition. I saw those the demo vids of Eucalyptus and it looks really good, the guy put a lot of work into it, shame that Apple would just throw it away like that.

Jamie, if you’re reading this, I have 2 suggestions:

-Cydia/Installer: I heard they’re starting their own AppStore, and I’d buy your App in a heartbeat when its available…

-Blackberry: I use both a iPod Touch and a Curve, and believe me the crackberry community would welcome you with open arms, not make stupid comments to excuse Apple’s behaivour.

Gussy (profile) says:

Safe Harbour Laws?

Wouldn’t Apple be able to hide behind the Safe Harbour of the DCMA or what ever it is called? Seeing that they are just a distributor of the material and not hosting it in anyway. Seeing that everything is coming off the net and not being stored locally or on the ipod. It could also have a rating on it, like they do for movies, then people under a certain age couldn’t get into it? Or allow free choice?

outlaw26r says:

Apple at this point in the stage can do what they like. There is really no competition. However as all the others come out with their app stores, then apple will be forced to either change their stance or loose their position of leadership. We can complain about their policies until we’re blue in the face but until they feel they will lose market share it isn’t much of a concern. However, this seems to be a short sighted policy that will only turn away developers to other products. An Iphone is great but its mainly the strength of its apps that keep it where it is. Piss off the developers and your only hurting your own product.

It would be great if people were able to take responsibility for themselves again. But for all those “someone think of the children!” people (Mainly parents who want to avoid said responsibility.) How about a rating system like movies for apps and allow parents to block certain ratings? Then let the community rate these so it takes apple out of the picture and these articles stop popping up like weeds ever week. I guess I’m trying to say, “Hurry up competition! Your the only way the app store will improve itself.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Eh. I find Apple’s Software Update feature real useful. Seriously, you update all software thru Apple’s website. Need a copy of Java? Want a Twitter Client? Go to Software Update. Updates to VLC? You go to Software Update.

I think Software Update is what the App store is trying to be but there’s a small number of inconsiderate people who keep f—ing things up without looking at the whole mac software lifecycle and in the process call foul, saying the big, bad, mean man with a islet cell neuroendocrine tumor is picking on them.


outlaw26r says:

Okay, maybe I stand corrected. Just read on CNet that apple reversed their actions.

Maybe Apple listens to the uproar of complaints from their users after all. Still, as a primary MAC user (no Iphone or Ipod touch) I am really begging for some competition here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Tell Apple to stop suing and putting places out of business like Psystar. Until they stop suing and shutting down the competition, you won’t see competition. Maybe you should stop buying Macs and vote with your wallet instead of just hoping. Btw, its “Mac,” not “MAC,” as “MAC” is an acronym already in use in the computer world (including Macs). Mac was just short for Macintosh, but eventually they just changed it to Mac.

outlaw26r says:

@ Coward – Psystar has little to nothing to do with the mobile sector. The competition I was referring to is Windows Mobile, RIM, Android and if you want to count it before it’s released then Palm. All these companies are able to release their own App markets and in fact are doing or planning to do so. So I don’t see how I’m wrong for hoping their competition and more open app markets makes the environment better for all developers/end users by competing for the quality developers.

And I did vote with my Wallet, I have a windows mobile device and am wishing to hell it had the same ease of use app store that Iphone users enjoy. Don’t mark me as some Apple fan boy just to get your troll comments in.

Anonymous Coward says:

Apple rejecting apps sure gives them a lot of free advertising, from sites like this that go crazy whenever any app is rejected on questionable grounds… who really cares, apple is a private company they can reject any app for any reason they want, particularly if the apps don’t reflect the image apple wants, which clearly seems to be the case with the apps I see rejected which are in questionable taste. If you don’t like it you don’t have to use the iphone.

Jake says:

Apple is losing it

Apple is really losing it. I heard of some other programming investing a lot of time in money in an App that was rejected as well. And here is the worst thing: they won’t make this judgement till you submit the full application. That is so lame. Why would I waste my time on something that could end up being be completely useless, and lose all my money?

visit me at
registry cleaners

Brave Anonymous Coward says:

We need more undocumented features

All I care about is finding strange and useless undocumented features buried in software. Not just easter eggs, rotting easter eggs. Keep poking some button while you rotate it back and forth to reverse all of the text on the screen, or to activate a misspelling dictionary. If I wanted to get something done, I’d be working on a bigger machine. We needs handheld apps that help us be inefficient and encourage wasting time.

alliecat says:

The difference between censoring hate speech (such as racism, for example) and censoring “adult content” is that whereas in the latter case the person being censored is perfectly capable of choosing for themselves whether they want access to the content, in the former case that’s simply not the point. Where hate speech is concerned, the aim of censorship isn’t necessarily to protect the person being exposed to it – especially if that person is a member of the dominant group respective to the group being attacked – but to protect anyone who frequent exposure to similar hate speech might contribute to that person hurting.

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