Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

Summary: Over the years, I have read hundreds of license agreements, looking for little gotchas and clear descriptions of rights. But I have never, ever seen a legal document like the one Apple has attached to its new iBooks Author program.

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TOPICS: Legal, Apple, Software
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Update: This post is part of a series. If you find this topic interesting, I recommend you read these follow-ups as well:

I read EULAs so you don't have to. I've spent years reading end user license agreements, EULAs, looking for little gotchas or just trying to figure out what the agreement allows and doesn't allow.

I have never seen a EULA as mind-bogglingly greedy and evil as Apple's EULA for its new ebook authoring program.

Dan Wineman calls it "unprecedented audacity" on Apple's part. For people like me, who write and sell books, access to multiple markets is essential. But that's prohibited:

Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. As far as I know, in the consumer software industry, this practice is unprecedented.

Exactly: Imagine if Microsoft said you had to pay them 30% of your speaking fees if you used a PowerPoint deck in a speech.

I've downloaded the software and had a chance to skim the EULA. Much of it is boilerplate, but I've read and re-read Section 2B, and it does indeed go far beyond any license agreement I've ever seen:

B. Distribution of your Work. As a condition of this License and provided you are in compliance with its terms, your Work may be distributed as follows:

  •  (i) if your Work is provided for free (at no charge), you may distribute the Work by any available means;
  • (ii) if your Work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or service), you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions: (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution.

And then the next paragraph is bold-faced, just so you don't miss it:

Apple will not be responsible for any costs, expenses, damages, losses (including without limitation lost business opportunities or lost profits) or other liabilities you may incur as a result of your use of this Apple Software, including without limitation the fact that your Work may not be selected for distribution by Apple.

The nightmare scenario under this agreement? You create a great work of staggering literary genius that you think you can sell for 5 or 10 bucks per copy. You craft it carefully in iBooks Author. You submit it to Apple. They reject it.

Under this license agreement, you are out of luck. They won't sell it, and you can't legally sell it elsewhere. You can give it away, but you can't sell it.  Updated to add: By "it," I am referring to the book, not the content. The program allows you to export your work as plain text, with all formatting stripped. So you do have the option to take the formatting work you did in iBooks Author, throw it away, and start over. That is a devastating potential limitation for an author/publisher. Outputting as PDF would preserve the formatting, but again the license would appear to prohibit you from selling that work, because it was generated by iBooks Author.

One oddity I noticed in the agreement is that the term Work is not defined. [Update: Yes, it is, as I noticed on a fourth reading. It's in an "Important Note" above the agreement itself: "any book or other work you generate using this software (a 'Work')." Of course, that uses the term "work" recursively.] It's capitalized in the relevant sections of the EULA, and it clearly is the thing of value that Apple wants from an author. Leaving that term so poorly defined is not exactly malpractice, but it's sloppy lawyering.

I'm also hearing, but have not been able to confirm, that the program's output is not compatible with the industry-standard EPUB format. Updated: An Apple support document notes that "¦iBooks uses the ePub file format" and later refers to it as "the industry-leading ePub digital book file type." But iBooks Author will not export its output to that industry-leading format.

My longtime friend Giesbert Damaschke, a German author who has written numerous Apple-related books, says via Twitter that "iBA generates Epub (sort of): save as .ibooks, rename to .epub (won't work with complex layouts, cover will be lost)." Even if that workaround produces a usable EPUB file, however, the license agreement would seem to explicitly prohibit using the resulting file for commercial purposes outside Apple's store.

As a publisher and an author, I obviously have a dog in this hunt. But what I see so far makes this program and its output an absolute nonstarter for me.

I'll be writing more fully on this issue after I've had a chance to use the program and to inspect the EULA under a microscope.

Oh, and let's just stipulate that I could send an e-mail to Apple asking for comment, or I could hand-write my request on a sheet of paper and then put it in a shredder. Both actions would produce the same response from Cupertino. But if anyone from Apple would care to comment, you know where to find me.

Topics: Legal, Apple, Software

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611 comments
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  • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

    Wow.

    At least it doesn't claim that having kicked the program's tires you can't ever publish anything by any other workflow again. That's for version 2.
    John Baxter
    • How much does that software cost???

      @John Baxter

      It's Free??? And incredibly powerful, and will enpower teachers to teach, and make books more affordable for students and will help improve learning and education as a whole... Oh.. And it will probably put an end to powerpoint (thank god!!!)... And the catch is that there are some restrictions as a result of this software and ecosystem going out to the world for free... Do you people even bother to listen to yourselves???
      i8thecat4
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @i8thecat4

        "some restrictions"

        lol
        wendellgee2
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @i8thecat4 yes, US education will be saved by Apple e-books software... This is the only thing US eduction is missing. Are you serious?
        pupkin_z
      • Who cares?

        @i8thecat4 [quote]It's Free??? And incredibly powerful, and will enpower teachers to teach, and make books more affordable for students and will help improve learning and education as a whole... Oh.. And it will probably put an end to powerpoint (thank god!!!)...[/quote]
        You've yet to see it, feel it, play with it, drive it, and you have the audacity to claim "Incredibly powerful"?

        "Empower teachers to teach"? Did you get your education via iPads?

        No need to read further, you should lay off the Kool-Aid for your own sanity...

        Talk about dumbing down to the lowest common denominator...

        If you want real software, look no further than Open-Source, not only free from costs, but also from strings-attached...

        That's what Apple did, by ripping off FreeBSD for OS X and iOS.

        Ripping off, by not putting back into the public domain.

        Now attempting to rip off authors, to sell more girly pretty iStuff?

        Have you not heard, iClay is fun too?

        [i]~~~~~~~~~~
        The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.
        ~ Confucius

        Actually, I think most people accept the existence of qualia.
        ~ David Chalmers

        All the carnal beauty of my wife is but skin deep.
        ~ Sir Thomas Overbury's, 1613[/i]
        WinTard
      • It's not free

        @i8thecat4 - no it isn't free. Oh, you mean as in beer. Sorry, that's not the freedom that matters.
        daboochmeister
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @WinTard

        "If you want real software, look no further than Open-Source, not only free from costs, but also from strings-attached...

        That's what Apple did, by ripping off FreeBSD for OS X and iOS.

        Ripping off, by not putting back into the public domain."

        BSD isn't public domain; its license merely requires that you acknowledge its origins, and obviously Apple managed that. Other than that, you can do pretty much anything you want with it.
        Third of Five
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @i8thecat4 = obvious troll
        Texrat
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @i8thecat4 What are you on? A textbook, no matter the format, does little to 'empower teachers to teach". Excellent teachers can teach with or without textbooks, it's the "I'm going to read to you what's in the book" teachers that you seem to be referring to, and they're not very good. What would be empowering would be the ability to use this and have an 'open' finished product. This is a scheme to make money, not a plan to help teachers. (Not that I'm against schemes to make money, but let's not swallow the propaganda whole.)
        rcn2
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @i8thecat4 Wow. Get of the drugs.
        jsmith@...
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @i8thecat4 Do you every drink anything other than Apple koolaid?
        rcol4jc@...
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @i8thecat4 Can't agree with this one. Can only assume that they mean the output (saved file) is only for iBooks but the actual raw document can be exported and republished with another tool.
        There wil be an update to the EULA shortly to clarify.
        global.philosopher
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @i8thecat4
        Apple loves the brainless.
        kstap
      • It's not free

        @i8thecat4
        maybe for the person who owns an iPad, you know, the free ones Apple gives out.

        But do you here yourself talking?

        You're agreeing with Apple that you can distribute your hard fought work for free, but to sell it, it can only be sold in a way that requires people to buy more stuff from Apple.

        You sound like an Apple shareholder, IMHO.
        William Farrel
      • Wintard - you are almost correct.

        @WinTard
        I agree with 95% of what you said to i8thecat, except for the "not putting back into the public domain" bit. If you want the Darwin Source code, go here: http://www.opensource.apple.com/
        You won't get all of the OSX functionality, but you will get the updated Darwin code which is the project Apple derived from BSD. Much of it is under the BSD or GPL licenses, as these components (presumably) were when Apple acquired them.

        Apple has always made their modified Open Source code available to the community. Learn more here: http://developer.apple.com/opensource/

        As for the iBooks Author EULA, well that *is* unconscionable at it needs to be re-written.
        use_what_works_4_U
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @i8thecat4, well you certainly need a grammar teacher!
        Red In Blue
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @i8thecat4 that makes as much sense as praising a society that is completely crime free because the citizens have agreed to give up their right to privacy and will be watched by the government 24/7 so that the government can guarantee your safety. Sounds stupid doesn't it?
        Al_nyc
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @i8thecat4 This article would not have been written had Apple only called it Google iBooks Author - where evil is acceptable.
        JScottA44
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @i8thecat4 I wish ZDNet had a vote-down button.
        dcolbert@...
      • RE: Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

        @i8thecat4
        It's Free???
        Yes it is, just like smart phones are free, oh! unless you actually use them and read your 2 year contract...lol
        lorin@...