Apple iPad Adopters: Prepare for Content Punishment

Apple iPad Adopters: Prepare for Content Punishment

Summary: Apple's "Regional Content Review" clauses for content suppliers may prevent consumers from reading and viewing a large amount of material they've already paid for on their new iPads.


Special Report: Apple iPad

Apple's "Regional Content Review" clauses for content suppliers may prevent consumers from reading and viewing a large amount of material they've already paid for on their new iPads (artwork by Spidermonkey)

A few weeks ago I wrote about whether or not Apple will allow the iPad to be an "Open Market" for content providers other than Apple's own iBooks.

So I did a bit more investigative research, and found out that the good news is that at least for now, the answer is Yes. The bad news? Sister Steven isn't going to allow you to consume anything naughty. Bad content supplier, Bad! WHACK! You shall now recite the iPad End-User License Agreement ten times as your penance. Thank you Sister Steven, can I have another?

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

The Good News, at least if you are a consumer or a provider of digital content that competes with iBooks, is that iBooks will be a separate download for iPad and is not treated as "Core functionality" the same way iTunes is, at least in terms in the way other iPhone applications in the past have been rejected for doing the same thing or playing a similar role as iTunes.

So if you're a company like Amazon, Stanza, Barnes & Noble, or even Adobe (which potentially could port its Digital Editions Reader) or an Open Source project like Calibre you are in good shape if you want to do a native port to iPad and become a content supplier.

There are several companies that will have iPad-compatible content viewing apps with their own content stores at or closely following the product's launch. Amazon's Kindle for iPhone and Lexcycle Stanza Reader will run pretty-much as is in blown-up mode, but it's a good bet that both will be fully iPad optimized for launch. [UPDATE: Amazon has announced Kindle for Tablets]

Amazon's primary competition, Barnes & Noble has publicly stated they have an iPad application under development and it will available on or close to launch.

Also Read: Amazon introduces Kindle app for tablet computers

The Bad News? Just because you bought something from one of these content providers and can view it on another device today doesn't guarantee that you'll be able to view it on your iPad.

Recently, I learned about an Apple "Regional Content Review" clause that all iPad content suppliers have to agree to submit and comply to.

I spoke candidly about this subject with Jeanniey Mullen, Global Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Zinio Systems, who was open and willing to discuss what types of materials that customers will not be able to view on their iPad content viewer application that is due for release in April.

The Zinio Viewer and Store for iPad, coming in April 2010.

Zinio is a company that works with magazine publishers to create digital editions of popular newsstand periodicals, and the company provides access to subscription content from material from all over the world, from many different countries.

Effectively, with the Zinio viewer for iPhone and soon iPad, there are thousands and thousands of media-rich publications with color photographs and illustrations for you to choose from.

The viewer application on the iPhone and the iPad as well as on the PC and the Mac (and for other platforms to be announced in the near future) allows you to pan and scan pages and reproduce the paper magazine reading experience in full color on a mobile device.

Additionally, the Zinio application has unique interactive features such as videos and embedded "applets" that extend and enhance the magazine reading experience.

A demonstration of Zinio Dynamic Design from Zinio on Vimeo.

All of this is pretty awesome stuff. There's just one little problem.

Zinio, just like any content provider for iPad and iPhone, has to submit all of its content to Apple under Regional Content Review. That means that if Apple decides certain titles that Zinio carries are unfit for a particular regional market -- in this case, the United States -- it will censor and/or prohibit those titles from being viewed on an iPad, iPhone or iTouch.

What does this imply for the iPad adopter and Zinio customer? You can log into Zinio's site, download the viewer to your PC or Mac, and buy those titles and view them without restriction, but if you attempt to view them on your iPad, those titles will be blocked.

What sort of titles are we talking about here? Well, let's start with the obvious. The domestic and all 16 international versions of Playboy, special editions and sister magazines thereof. The same goes with Penthouse Magazine.

But it's not just soft-core porn. We're also talking about fairly benign and nudity-free titles like MAXIM and FHM (now published only in France and Spain) which depict women in suggestive poses and wearing skimpy outfits.

[UPDATE 4/03/2010: MAXIM premiered on the iPad launch of Zinio, but Penthouse and Playboy and Vogue France cannot be viewed on the application, among others.]

Vogue France has apparently been blacklisted for US-based consumption, much in the same way that Wal-Mart removed it from its shelves due to its artistic and occasional use of nudity.

These publications are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Zinio titles that are perfectly acceptable for foreign consumption but apparently are verboten in the US because Apple has now decided to become our Content Nanny.

But Zinio isn't the only independent content provider that is going to be subject to regional content review. has 450,000 titles in its Kindle pantry and with just a cursory search, there are nearly 13,000 titles that are classified as "Erotica". Amazon's direct competition, Barnes & Noble has nearly 4,000 under that classification. The SONY Reader Store which distributes titles in Adobe Digital Editions format has approximately 2,600.

if you are one of those folks who feel erotica is "bad" and thus believe iPad prospective buyers who like this stuff should stay far, far away from the device, then the argument ends there.

Additional Resources:

Apple is not your mother

iPad in schools? content controls, DRM and pricing mean no

Apple should let adults make their own decisions regarding content

However, while it might be easy to classify something as "erotica", not all material that is stimulating necessarily falls under that category. There is also the slippery slope of material that may not actually be "erotica" and yet may be educational adult material that easily could fall through the cracks or will be rubber-stamped as "bad" by Apple with little or no consideration.

For example, there is all of the material written by popular sexologist Violet Blue, who has 28 titles for Kindle on Amazon.

A few of the titles of which she has author, contributor or editor credit are pure erotica, but the balance of them are "Self-Help" for singles and couples type manuals similar to the Joy of Sex which is widely considered to be a revolutionary treatise on the subject.

Violet Blue is well-known as a subject matter expert on sex who writes for, is a high traffic content supplier with her podcast on iTunes and has previously appeared on Oprah. And apparently Steve Jobs doesn't like her very much.

Violet Blue uses extremely explicit language to describe the various techniques in the subjects she covers, and also has graphic illustrations that assist in the text. Is her work pornography or instructional/educational material?

ZDNet Podcast with sexologist Violet Blue on e-books, explicit content and iPad

According to Apple's calculus under these new Regional Content Review processes which in terms of due diligence for Amazon, B&N and other large suppliers will be a Herculean effort -- it's likely going to be painted and classified into one big category: Not acceptable.

Besides erotica and self-help sex manuals there's other stuff totally unrelated to those subjects that Apple might very well kick off the list. There's all of Chelsea Handler's bawdy books. And what about all of those medical texts out there that have graphical representations of male and female anatomy in photographs and illustrations? Or naturalistic depictions of unclothed women and men in back-issues of National Geographic?

How about Japanese Manga and other graphic novels and independent comic books which depict women in suggestive outfits and also frequently show extreme violence? Where exactly does Apple draw the line on this stuff? And if they forget to do proper due diligence and something slips between the cracks initially, will materials we've paid for and previously were able to view on the iPad and iPhone just disappear?

And content doesn't stop at books and magazines. This clause would be sure to affect Netflix or other similar content-streaming service that serves up video as well.

I'm really looking forward to being an iPad owner. But if I find myself frequently running into Apple-imposed content firewalls, I may have to look at owning additional devices such as HP's Windows 7-based Slate or Dell's Mini 5 based on Android.

[poll id="21"]

Does Apple's content review policies give you pause or concerns about your iPad purchase? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Disclaimer: The postings and opinions on this blog are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Topics: iPhone, Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Smartphones


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • WOW

    we hear never ending stuff on google and censorship in china...good on ya google and yet right in your back yard you have Apple, the all american company doing a 'china' on america. I am sorry but I find that just so incredibly funny!
    Here in Malaysia iTunes is (Apple's decision) iTunes with NO MUSIC!
    Time to take a look at yourself in the mirror...except in this case it is not the US governement censoring, it is a significant US corporation...
    • When you're right, you're right....

      ...we shouldn't rag on China for political censorship when Apple Computer is doing it here in the land of the somewhat brave and formerly free.

      The only difference here is that Steven Jobs is proposing to make us pay for the blade that will be used to castrate us, intellectually speaking.
  • Nothing to do with DVD regional content controls by MPAA

    [i]Looking at the Kindle, you will find the same exact restriction. In fact, depending on where you live, you may not be able to purchase many e-books (or even regular books) from Amazon. Additionally, did they forget the issue with the 1984 e-book on the Kindle?[/i]

    All of Zinio's materials regardless of country of origin are viewable on their PC and Mac reader within the United States. International periodicals are sold on newsstands in the US.

    This is not a licensing controls issue. The publisher itself reserves the right not to distribute its materials in whatever markets they choose. This is an Apple saying "You can only consume what WE see fit" issue.
    • So Apple has no contract with everybody

      How is that different with any other store??

      Did you ever think that they can't play the material BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE A LEGAL RIGHT TO PLAY THEM? Just because it is sold in newsstands does not give them the right to reproduce and display the material without a legal contract with the publishers.

      You are definitely a FUD/BS machine.
      • Actually you are that stupid.

        In a free market companies don't have to do business with everybody that wants to do business with them.

        This is the same issue as Amazon or Borders not wanting to sell a book from X or Y publisher for what ever reason. It could be that they don't like the content or maybe they don't like the details of the contract or they just want more money.

        Companies don't have to do business or support the products of other companies just because they want them to.

        The entire article is nothing but FUD/BS because there is no difference between the deals Apple is making and the deals other companies are making every day. It has nothing to do with defending Apple ... if it was Amazon or Borders or even Microsoft or Google I would say exactly the same thing.
        • How is NZ wrong, or trolling?

          he said
          [i]The publishers WANT to display their content on the iPad. Apple won't let them. Apple knows what's best for you![/i]

          Isn't that what the article was saying?

          How is it NZ is wrong? wackoae was the one saying that Apple has some sort of obligation not to sell pornographic material to a minor, yet that's not the issue.

          They can determine that a book painting Apple in a negative light, or an unauthorized biography of Steve Jobs is inappropriate, dictating to content providers what they determine is acceptable.

          Sure, any bookstore could do that, but the question is, do they?
          John Zern
        • Feedng the troll

          Hey, trolls are people, too. Do they not get hungry? If you cut* them, do they not bleed? If you tickle them, do they not laugh?

          Just remember, if you feed trolls, try not to give them too much sugar. They get unruly if you feed them too much sugar.

          *Yes, I know. A "p-word" goes here. But this is a family show.
          David Gewirtz
          • I see no troll

            No the point is that Apple is NO DIFFERENT to any other store, the
            products sold in your store have to fit with your brand identity. Do you
            honestly think Apple are going to sell all manor is stuff likely to cause
            offence to the majority of its customers?!

            I'll tell you what this is like; it's like Nintendo. They limited what could
            and could not be sold of their console. Like Apple, if they deemed it
            "objectionable" then it didn't happen, or the content provider had to
            be changes. This is the same thing.

            All stores make these judgement calls, Apple is no different. The
            article misses that point.

            Just because you don't agree with someone (or they critique a blog
            post) doesn't make you a troll.
        • Nice take on Shakespeare, Mr. Gewirtz

          didn't see that one coming. :)
        • Trolls abound...

          Weren't you acting rather trollish in the comments section of a DIFFERENT piece by Mr. Perlow recently, just because THAT particular one didn't lambaste Apple?

          This person doesn't a very strong argument, admittedly, and does seem from the tone to be a "rah rah Apple" person, but then again, its just as bad to be an "Apple can do only evil" person as well.

          My opinion is that Apple is making a big mistake here. They're in a position to do something reasonably good with this device (at least in comparison to the way they conduct their normal desktop and notebook computer business), and they're screwing it up because they're control freaks. Once again, its their unique combination of great engineering (and the people who deny they engineer great products just have an axe to grind) with horrible business practices.
          Snark Shark
      • Actually READ the post

        before spouting you harebrained bile.
      • I'm not sure he's as stupid as you make him out to be, but...

        You sure are that stupid.

        You are suggesting that because publisher A wants to sell something in store B that B has to comply. Oddly enough that isn't how the world works.

        If it did work that way, then I'd expect to see Playboy and Christian Bibles being sold through Islamic book chain stores, Carnivore recipe books to sold in Vegan stores, and even OS X and iPhones being sold in the Microsoft store(s). Did they ever open one of them or not?
        • stupid is as stupid does

          Unfortunately, you are the one that has it backwards. There is nothing in the article about forcing iTunes to carry any particular content, e.g. Playboy. The point is that if someone buys content from Amazon or B&N (not Apple), why should Apple be able to dictate whether that content shows up in the Kindle/Nook for iPad app? Those are two totally different issues.
          • Nah...

            You mistake the iPad for a computer, when it appears to be designed as a somewhat "Disney-like" consumer device or perhaps a little closer to game consoles. There there are plenty of examples that prevent folk who don't agree to the console maker's conditions from producing content for them.

            I suggest you take a look at "X Box only games" or "Wii only games" or whatever only. Do you have a problem with that?
  • Really?!?!?!

    This is about material that is otherwise freely
    available in the US. This is not illegal
    material. It's material <b>Apple</b> doesn't
    want you to have. And if Apple doesn't want
    that material in the ibook store, fine, but
    again if I want to buy it from B&N and view it
    on my ipad why should Apple be able to stop me.
    And the fact that B&N or any other store is
    able to sell it shows that publishers want it
    out there.

    This is worse than them rejecting apps from the
    app store, because now they're restricting
    other people's stores. Even if you agree that
    they can say no to a Kindle app, you have to
    realize that allowing a Kindle app, but then
    restricting what can be viewed within said app
    is wrong.

    And save the "you're just a pervert if you want
    porn on your ipad" argument.
    • Who the hell is talking about perverts???

      If you want to watch porn, you are free to do it. I have no problem with it (specially when I occasionally enjoy doing it myself).

      Just because you get something at B&N it does not mean that Apple has the right (or has) to support it. Besides, if you want to see eBooks from B&N you would buy an eReader that supports the format of what you purchased, not some random gadget that is not even out. Can you play eBooks made for the Sony eReader format on the Kindle?? Or Kindle books on the Sony eReader?? How is that different for the eReader in an iPad??

      So you don't like the limitations on the iPad .... then buy something else. Is that simple concept so difficult to understand??

      The iPad is not even out on the market, while there are about a dozen product already in the market for you to choose. Bitching about something that is common is just plain stupid.
      • Not all there obviously

        I think you are missing the point. This is not a common functionality.

        If I buy an notebook/netbook/smartphone/pda (which I have several) I do not expect nor would I allow the OEM to determine what documents I work on, what music I listen to, what video I watch, what literature I read. Nor would I allow them nor expect them to change the rules after I have purchased it.

        To think that this is the functionality that comes with the iPad? Why on earth would I buy one? In my personal opinion you are either cultish about the iPad, uninformed or your personal beliefs coincide with the newest iPad ideal.

        That said, if Apple will allow other vendors the ability to display what the user has purchased from them (ex: Kindle) without cencorship and limit Apples "censorship" to iBooks, I am okay with this. If they want to censor everything run/displayed on the iPad I am not.

        Aside from this soapbox, I won't be buying an iPad as I cannot see where in my lifestyle I would have any use for this type of device.
        Not to mention the cost. Ouch!
        • Well..

          Aren't you folks making the case that besides the dozen reasons you
          won't buy an iPad, now here's one more.

          Since you aren't going to get one, it doesn't really matter to you how
          Apple treats other vendors' product.

          But let's say that I'm one inclined to get an iPad and I'm trying to make
          sense of today's post from Mr. Perlow, as in figure out if it's FUD or
          doom. Is it an issue of geographical rights or content material? If it's
          the latter, why is "Regional" in the name? Could this be related to
          Amazon's cracking the whip on the publishers who aren't big enough
          to tell Amazon to buzz off, the agency idea looks good to them.

          One thing that occurs to me that unifies region and content would be
          how courts are treating obscenity delivered via the internet.

          At the moment it appears that an internet publisher of content is held
          to the user's local community standards. Here's a link to a blog post
          from <a
          merging_circuit_s.html">attorney David Johnson.</a>

          The publishers may very well tell Apple that in return for license to
          distribute material, Apple has to be sure that certain regions cannot
          view certain content, no matter who sold it to the user, because
          otherwise the publishers may be subject to prosecution.
      • I think you're missing the BIG picture here.

        This isn't just about watching porn on your iPad. This is about censorship. Maybe Jason (and Chris for that matter on his own blog) didn't quite express themselves clearly enough. This is purely about censorship.

        Today it's porn, soft core, mildly stimulating and such. Tomorrow - who knows. It might be politics. Imagine if you will, if certain books suddenly wound up on Apple's "Thou Shalt NOT have" list purely because it doesn't agree with Steve Jobs' political views.

        Now... To a certain extent, you have to use a bit of common sense when you're publishing books. You probably would NOT want to reprint and distribute say... Solomon Rushdie's 'Satanic Verses' in Iran. It would likely incite yet another series of jihads... Stuff we can all do without.

        But to censor material that is otherwise fine and legal to view is a bit silly.

        It's even sillier considering the problem is to a large extent APPLE'S FAULT. It appears their parental controls do not work properly when it comes to putting content on their portable devices. So instead of FIXING the software problem so it works as expected, they decided to start censoring material.

        It's a dangerous slippery slope they're treading on.
        • However...

          In a free-ish market, then Apple are going to either lose or have to work with a diminished market by going the route they are choosing.

          That is probably a better remedy than going ape.... about what Apple does when they disagree with it.