EFF: Apple "acting as a jealous and arbitrary feudal lord"

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has criticized Apple over its iPhone developer's contract, branding the company "as a jealous and arbitrary feudal lord."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has criticized Apple over its iPhone developer's contract, branding the company "as a jealous and arbitrary feudal lord."

Earlier this week the EFF used a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain a copy of Apple's iPhone Developer License Agreement from NASA (the EFF as subsequently been given a later version of this agreement). This is the agreement that developers have to agree to in order to be able to develop and publish apps through the App Store.

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Fred von Lohmann, EFF's senior staff attorney, has been through the agreement and calls it "very one-sided contract, favoring Apple at every turn." Some of the troubling aspects of the agreement that has come under von Lohmann's scrutiny are:

  • Ban on Public Statements
  • App Store Only
  • Kill Your App Any Time
  • We Never Owe You More than Fifty Bucks

How can Apple get away with imposing such heavy-handed restrictions on developers?

Because it is the sole gateway to the more than 40 million iPhones that have been sold. In other words, it's only because Apple still "owns" the customer, long after each iPhone (and soon, iPad) is sold, that it is able to push these contractual terms on the entire universe of software developers for the platform.

It's all down to competition, or the lack of it:

In short, no competition among app stores means no competition for the license terms that apply to iPhone developers.

von Lohmann then goes on to accuse Apple of acting like a "feudal lord" rather than a "leader."

If Apple wants to be a real leader, it should be fostering innovation and competition, rather than acting as a jealous and arbitrary feudal lord. Developers should demand better terms and customers who love their iPhones should back them.

I don't expect that Apple will amend its ways based on criticizm from the EFF, but it does serve to highlight how Apple is tying up its developers.