Apple's lawyers clean up the sloppy iBooks Author EULA

Today, Apple released version 1.0.1 of its iBooks Author program. There's no new code, only a new license agreement. The sloppy language in the original license agreement is cleaned up, but the fundamentals are unchanged: Apple retains exclusive rights to anything an author wants to sell in its new format.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

When Apple introduced its iBooks Author program several weeks ago, the company took some much-deserved criticism for a sloppy license agreement that appeared overreaching.

Today, the Mac App Store notified customers that version 1.0.1 is available. There’s no new code, though—instead, the notes say, “This release provides an updated version of the End User License Agreement.”

At the time, I criticized the company for its “sloppy lawyering,” particularly in relation to two provisions. Both of those provisions were changed in today’s revision. I’ve done a line-for-line comparison of the rest of the agreement, which show no additional changes.

The preamble, which previously defined a “Work” as “any book or other work you generate using this software,” now specifically defines the type of work that Apple claims exclusive rights to distribute commercially:

If you want to charge a fee for a work that includes files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author, you may only sell or distribute such work through Apple, and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple.

A reference to the iBookstore was also removed from the preamble.

In addition, a sentence at the end of that preamble now specifies that files created in PDF format or exported as plain text are not subject to Apple's exclusivity requirement:

This restriction does not apply to the content of such works when distributed in a form that does not include files in the .ibooks format.

The previous version of the license agreement applied to “any book or other work you generate using this software,” resulting in a reasonable interpretation that its restrictions also applied to files saved or exported in PDF and text formats. This wording removes that interpretation.

In addition, the onerous section 2B has been cleaned up considerably. As with the preamble, the new language now specifies that it applies to a work that “includes files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author.”

The greediest clause of all has been removed completely. Previously, the license agreement said, “Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution.” That language has been struck completely and replaced with the following:

You retain all your rights in the content of your works, and you may distribute such content by any means when it does not include files in the .ibooks format generated by iBooks Author.

This set of changes is part PR, part legal cleanup. It doesn’t really change the fundamentals of the new iBooks format, which is an undocumented extension to an industry standard format. If an author decides to create a work in the new format, he or she can still sell it only in Apple’s store, with Apple’s approval.

In nearly 20 years as a book author, I've read lots of author contracts. The words in those contracts matter, a lot. The changes in this license agreement make it easier to understand, but the degree of control that Apple demands is still hard for me to accept as an author or a publisher.

Related posts:

Editorial standards