Apple's Rejection Of EFF RSS Reader App Sort Of Proves EFF's Point About Arbitrary App Rejections

from the thanks-for-making-it-easy dept

It’s pretty clear that Apple’s policies covering what iPhone applications are acceptable for its App Store are pretty absurd and arbitrary. The company has repeatedly blocked applications that could allow users to access content Apple deems “objectionable” — like an e-book reader that can display the Kama Sutra, among thousands of other books — when that same content is accessible through the iPhone’s built-in web browser or other applications. This rejection process led the Electronic Frontier Foundation to ask the Copyright Office to grant a DMCA exemption covering the jailbreaking of iPhones, so they could be used with any app the user wanted instead of just Apple-approved ones, as well as other phone unlocking techniques. Apple, of course, responded by saying that jailbreaking was copyright infringment.

The company may have now unwittingly given a little more juice to the EFF’s claims that the approval process is arbitrary, censorial and anti-competitive, though, by rejecting an application that displays the EFF’s RSS feed. Not because they dislike the EFF (ostensibly), but because it contained “objectionable content” in the form of a blog post that linked to a YouTube video containing the f-word in a subtitle. Once again, this content is available elsewhere on the iPhone, namely via the web browser and YouTube app pre-installed on the device, reinforcing the asinine nature of the rejection. Whether this will help the EFF’s case with the Copyright Office — or help change Apple’s policy — remains to be seen. But for now, it still looks like Apple’s app rejection process is a digital equivalent of a “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” sign.

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Companies: apple, eff

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Comments on “Apple's Rejection Of EFF RSS Reader App Sort Of Proves EFF's Point About Arbitrary App Rejections”

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Michael Whitetail says:

Re: Re:

This attitude is what keeps these corporations doing the things that they do, regardless of the impact on the customer.

It would be very easy to link the two facts of: “Jailbreaking is a DMCA circumvention violation and vague, unpublished rejection guidelines which allow for rejection of apps that are similar to already approved apps” into a legal argument for illegal tying and anti-competative business practices.

As you may recall, MS was found guilty of something similar in binding IE to the OS and brokering deals with companies/developers to exclude certain apps from pre installtion.

Sounds somewhat similar to me.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So who is forcing you to buy an iPhone? You don’t like it, don’t buy it. Let the market decide. We want to legislate what companies do? Is this the change that was talked about? We don’t like something, well, the government should step in and make the company do it?

No, that’s not what anyone is suggesting at all. This is about the OPPOSITE of that. It’s about taking an unnecessary government regulation AWAY. That is, reducing the scope of the DMCA to allow you to do what you want with a product you purchased.

Designerfx (profile) says:

biggest mistaske of all is buying an iphone - old news

I agree that this is a horrible thing and it does need to be reduced out so the DMCA cannot prevent it, but honestly buying an iphone was obviously the first bad mistake. Really, have you ever heard of something not overpriced from apple that people falsely convince themselves on grounds of “quality”? All apple does is aesthetics and charge way over for it.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: biggest mistaske of all is buying an iphone - old news

Straying off-topic: I’ve owned a good number of phones (I go through them very quickly) and the iPhone (jailbroken) is an amazing device. Not perfect, of course, but each generation it gets closer.

Of course, it never *will* get perfect, because that would require, IMHO, the software to all be open source, and Apple will never do that.

My gf has a Storm, a few of my friends have G1s, guys at work all have the BB Curve.. and I wow them with what the iPhone can do.

I normally agree with you with Apple and their gear, but in this case, you’ve let your bias against Apple blind you to an very nice device.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You wow them?

I have a Storm and have compared it to an iPhone and was not wowed at all. What can the iPhone do that the Storm can’t besides iTunes? Can Weatherbug run in the background and keep the weather updated? Can you play radio while checking your email? Nope, because non-Apple apps can’t run in the background. Are you wowed yet?

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: You wow them?

Notice the “jailbroken”. Then then answer is yes.

I can also control my computers at home through it, start and stop downloads, reboot machines, change router settings.

I have wifi.

I can watch youtube and get an incoming call and *not* miss it due to 30 seconds of lag. (My gf’s biggest complaint, by far.)

I can stream music and video to my iphone through the cell network. I can tether my phone without paying $20/month to do so. (or whatever it costs)

I stand by my statement, a jailbroken iphone is amazing, and hands down better than any phone yet. (The pre does seem cool, though.)

Still, don’t get me wrong, I was hoping that the G1 would be google’s gift to nerds.. then it was locked down. Very disappointing.

RD says:

Dear Idiots

To all the “they dont have to sell you…” And “you dont have to buy it…” morons out there, please pay attention, because you are missing the salient point about this entire topic:


The complaint, then, to make it even simpler for you simpletons, is that if you want to SELL something, you have to give people something THEY WANT, not what YOU (you=company) wants. Yes, they dont have to….Yes I dont have to….And where would that leave us? No one would buy what they offer. Wow! GREAT IDEA!! (hint: no its not).

Can you PLEASE get this idea through your tiny pea-brains? Please? It would make life so much easier for the rest of us.

Chuck Chandler says:

Re: Dear Idiots

The complaint, then, to make it even simpler for you simpletons, is that if you want to SELL something, you have to give people something THEY WANT…

That would explain why Apple hasn’t sold any iPhones. /sarcasm

Are you suggesting that what you want is what everyone wants? Obviously, a large number of people are happy with the iPhone so what incentive does Apple have to do away with the App Store? Is their approval process nonsensical? Yes. Does that show that Apple made a mistake by locking applications? No.

Rob R. (profile) says:

Re: Dear Idiots

I really couldn’t find the central point in your rambling, nonsensical attempt at communication, so I’ll just go ahead and assume you wanted a sandwich.

I agree, sandwiches are delicious.

Oh, while you are eating, check out the iPhone. I got one after having a ton of other phones and PDAs that just didn’t do everything I wanted. This thing is great and works seamlessly with my desktop computer. I bought it because I sampled one and really loved how it worked, so in keeping with the notions of capitalism that this great country runs on I paid for it and will buy new ones as they come out. I will also buy apps from them because they have things I like and I want them to have more.

Enjoy your sandwich!

Just Wanted Toast says:

Toasters - Would you buy them if they had the same restrictions?

When Tfal licensed a toaster for $185 to me they said that I can only buy bread through their Bread Store. The bakers submitted their bread to Tfal and if they approved the bread the baker had to make it a certain shape and size so it would fit inside of Tfals’s toasters. Their toasters had copyrighted, patented and trademarked hardware that only accept bread with certain shape, size and color. If I tried to use bread from another source it would not work. If I tried to modify the toaster to accept any bread I was in violation of the licensing agreement and it was DMCA anti-circumvention provisions violation. Same if I baked my own bread and cut it to shape. I wanted to buy Rye bread for my morning toast, it wasn’t available. Tfal refused to approve it because some one at the Tfal bread store was allergic to it. My wife wanted Poppy Seed bread but we couldn’t buy it either, some found it objectionable because of the drug implications and it could cause you to fail your weekly pee test.
The toaster was useless, I returned it to Costco for a full refund and bought a used old school at the yard sale down the street for five bucks.

RD says:

Seems I OVERestimated the intelligence...

“Are you suggesting that what you want is what everyone wants? Obviously, a large number of people are happy with the iPhone so what incentive does Apple have to do away with the App Store? Is their approval process nonsensical? Yes. Does that show that Apple made a mistake by locking applications? No.”

Wow. Just….wow. You REALLY think my rant was about equating what *I* want (as an individual) with what I THINK EVERYONE ELSE SHOULD WANT??

And kudos for COMPLETELY missing the point even when I put it DIRECTLY in the message. Once again, for the reading-comprehension-challenged crowd:


Christ, I weep for the future…

KnowItAll says:

Apple is always right

And here we go again… the apple loving community is protecting apple.

Wake up guys, apple is producing a good OS and good hardware but they don’t care about customers and software developers. They are dictators and worse than M$ (glad there are not as powerful yet).

You don’t have to buy an iPhone? Right, you don’t have to but you bought one and thought you actually can put ANY application on that is stable, but you can’t.

You subscribed and payed quite a bit of money to apple to open a developer account so that you actually can distribute your small and really special RSS Reader and apple rejects it because there is an f-word in one feed?
People don’t have to install the Reader and they don’t have to read the feed so why restricted them?

I can understand it when it comes to porn and that stuff but here?

And the application has to FILTER such words? Hmm, i may should try to forbid Safari and co. because THEY don’t filter a single word.

Do you guys actually start thinking at some point?

Stew says:

Screw Apple and the horse they rode in on

The iPhone is a piece of hardware, just like any other piece of hardware. And if you want or need to pay the price for it then you should be able to put what you want on it. Simple as that.

Sony doesn’t get to say which cable or satellite companies you can sign up with or what dvds you can watch. Ford doesn’t get to say you can’t buy your gas from Exxon or that you can’t change the stereo or that you can’t give a ride to Aunt Mabel because she said the F-word once in 1953.

Hell, even Microsoft can’t tell you what you can or cannot install on your computer without getting sued and fined from her to the next century.

So what gives Apple the right to claim copyright infringement if you exercise your own right to use the iPhone for whatever the hell you want? It’s a stupid double standard that makes no sense whatsoever.

Freedom says:


The real issue is that your are breaking the law if you try and take an iPhone that you purchased and supposedly own and load an application on it that wasn’t approved. There is no other choice – you can’t load un-signed/unapproved software without violating the DMCA provisions.

Only in a corporate wet-dream come true would a consumer be charged with a crime for trying to load, wait, ready for it, an application that they didn’t approve.

Man, I’m the biggest control freak in the world and that concept is nuts. So far out there that I can’t even imagine saying it with a straight face.

They only reason they’ve gotten away with it, is that for the market, most folks don’t care about the applications that get denied so it hasn’t affected them yet. However, for us that worry about the slippery slope, you can understand why this doesn’t set well.

Think of it this way:

What if you can only put Ford parts in your Ford Car? Sorry, every Ford item has a chip in it that uses encryption to communicate with the car and if you buy anything other than a Ford part you have violated the DMCA/broke the law. No parts stores will carry these illegal (non-Ford) parts as they’ll probably be held liable for them.

Are you really okay with other companies starting to use this model? What if you can only get programs from Microsoft from their App Store? What if you are Intuit and don’t want to give Microsoft 30% of each sale? Sorry, no more bit-torrent app for you – I’m sure that wouldn’t be approved. What if Apple started only allowing you to get programs for your Mac for an app store, would that be ok?

If you love the iPhone, great, but realize that you are helping to support a business model that will ultimately cost you more than you can imagine. In the smart words of my grandfather, sometimes we are better off to sacrifice our near term needs for a better future. Do you really need the iPhone so much that you’d rather have a world were the corporations control ever product you own?


Rob R. (profile) says:

Re: DMCA...

I’m frequently amazed that you guys will just sit and bitch about how this system doesn’t work when the information is staring you in the face. The system works better than any system ever devised – bar none. That’s right – they have sold ONE BILLION apps and growing. They have sold more iPhones than any manufacturer with any model smartphone or PDA. Their stock has grown by leaps and bounds over the years and they have one of the most loyal fan bases of any company in the world. The market share of the iPhone among smartphone users is unmatched and makes all of the other makers jealous beyond words. 98%+ of iPhone users get another iPhone.

And you are smarter then they are?

*giggles uncontrollably*

Ed (profile) says:

Re: Re: smarter?

Yes, I am smarter than most. I bought a phone that does exactly what I want, has a huge supply of 3rd party apps available, most for free, I’m not locked into a contract with any carrier, and it connects to/syncs with 80% of the desktop computers in the world seamlessly. Oh, and it also can tether to my laptop if needed and that is sanctioned by the manufacturer AND the carrier I use. I paid about $80 for the phone on Ebay, bought 2 extra batteries (yes, they’re user-changeable!) for $5 each, plus a desktop and car charger.

This phone runs Windows Mobile 6.1. I connect to my Windows XP, Win Vista, and now Win7RC computers without fail, can browse the net using the free Skyfire and watch YouTube or any other Flash site easily, run all sorts of apps. For some reason many of my friends using iPhones have to borrow my phone when I’m out with them because their’s doesn’t work or the battery is dead/dying. Funny how that happens.

Mobile Developer says:

Re: Re: Re: smarter?

I agree, that people need to focus on their requirements and things that are important to them before purchasing the latest phone. I agree that the windows mobile phones run very well and I have every application that I need and want on my phone. I am really looking forward to the new HTC Touch Pro 2 running windows mobile 6.5.

Mike says:

What does DRM and the DMCA have to do with this?

Quote from Wikipedia:

“The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as Digital Rights Management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works.”

What form of DRM are you breaking with a jailbreak? DRM is meant to protect content from access, i.e. music and movies. What content is being protected here by a DRM claim?

DMCA is meant to protect DRM by criminalizing the breaking of DRM.

Access to what copyrighted works is really being protected here? Not the phone itself. You can’t copyright hardware, or a hand held computer in this case.

So, again, what does DRM and the DMCA have to do with this?

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: What does DRM and the DMCA have to do with this?

Apple (and HP -> printer cartridges, Sony/MS/Nintendo -> game systems, and the list goes on) claims that jailbreaking bypasses their built in ‘locks’ built into the software, including those locks that give them ultimate control over your (and I use the term ‘your’ loosely) iPhone, is breaking the law via the DMCA’s rules against reverse-engineering/decrypting/decompiling/etc.

The DMCA was an incredibly poorly thought out piece of legislation. Also I seem to recall that many many of the voting legislators noted that they had not had the time (but I suspect more likely no inclination) to even read the full text of the DMCA.

JohnRaven,CHT,CSH (profile) says:

iPhone Issues

As an iPhone app developer, I can tell you… Apple needs some serious help in the approval process department.

I’ve had updates multiple apps sit for weeks, unapproved when all that changed was a typo. It’s been approved for months… but somehow, fixing that typo sends it to the disappearing list of apps.

Other times, I’ve had them reject an app by saying it didn’t add functionality… and yet, we have Baby Shaker and “Oops, I crapped my pants” apps.

I think the real problem is, there are no real guidelines, no real review process and no real review procedures. I suspect it’s done on a “feel good” basis. If the app doesn’t make the SINGLE reviewer “feel good” about it… then it doesn’t get approved.

When they got trashed for the Baby Shaker app, I think they went back and told their people “You need to REALLY feel good about it, and make sure you think it will make other people FEEL good too.”

Sad… but probably true.

RD says:

Completely 100% contradictory statement #2

“My Kool-Aid was made by me and is non-addictive. Yours, unfortunately, cannot make that claim.

The only blind, unreasoning obedience I see is yours.”

Pot, meet kettle.

This from the guy staunchly defending Apple in all that it does, without allowing for even the slightest criticism of its practices and whether or not they might be right, smart, or good to do.

We CAN, therefore we SHOULD! Might makes right! It’s ours and you will take what WE GIVE YOU! The consumer is there to GIVE US MONEY, not dictate what they want!

Apple: Leading Blind Sheep since 1984….

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