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Apple Censors App Store Rejection Notices 477

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the because-they-can dept.
isBandGeek() writes "After a few reasonable App Store bans, such as the ones on I Am Rich and NetShare, developers started complaining about excessive restrictions on applications like Podcaster and MailWrangler, supposedly because they provided 'duplicate functionality.' In response, Apple rubbed salt in their wounds by slapping non-disclosure agreements on application rejection notices. Now developers are not even allowed to tell their fanbase that Apple decided to withhold approval for an application. Is Apple confident that Google's open platform Android won't be much of a threat?"
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Apple Censors App Store Rejection Notices

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  • by Brian Kendig (1959) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:36AM (#25149645) Homepage

    What happens if you don't agree to a non-disclosure agreement on the rejection notice you receive?

    Usually NDAs have to be signed before you get access to see cool secret stuff. But what if the only thing you're agreeing to is to be rejected?

  • Re:Reasonable? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by IrrepressibleMonkey (1045046) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:47AM (#25149759)

    How was banning a tethering application reasonable?

    If providers (like O2 in the UK) were provided with an assurance from Apple that tethering would not be allowed.
    And if providers (like O2 in the UK) set up their pricing policy on that assurance.
    Under those circumstances, it would be reasonable for Apple to ban a tethering application.

    I can't say if that is definitely what has happened.

    In the UK, O2 provide unlimited data with no fair usage policy for the iPhone. Every other 3G device they support has data limits and strict fair usage policies.
    Best will in the world - you can't use that much data with an iPhone. Start tethering? Let's play.
    I'd guess the providers will want to amend agreements with the consumers before they allow tethering.

  • Re:well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:53AM (#25149809) Homepage
    Do you sign something, or is it a click through EULA?
  • Well, duh! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot AT davidgerard DOT co DOT uk> on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:55AM (#25149827) Homepage

    "Fuck it, we're evil," [today.com] said Steve Jobs to an audience of soul-mortgaged thralls. "But our stuff is sooo good. You'll keep taking our abuse. You love it, you worm. Because our stuff is great. It's shiny and it's pretty and it's cool and it works. It's not like youâ(TM)ll go back to a Windows Mobile phone. Ha! Ha!"

    It's foolish to have expected anything else. As Neal Stephenson put it [artlung.com] in In The Beginning Was The Command Line:

    THE NOT-SO-CHARITABLE EXPLANATION has to do with Apple's corporate culture, which is rooted in Bay Area Baby Boomdom.

    Now, since I'm going to talk for a moment about culture, full disclosure is probably in order, to protect myself against allegations of conflict of interest and ethical turpitude: (1) Geographically I am a Seattleite, of a Saturnine temperament, and inclined to take a sour view of the Dionysian Bay Area, just as they tend to be annoyed and appalled by us. (2) Chronologically I am a post-Baby Boomer. I feel that way, at least, because I never experienced the fun and exciting parts of the whole Boomer scene--just spent a lot of time dutifully chuckling at Boomers' maddeningly pointless anecdotes about just how stoned they got on various occasions, and politely fielding their assertions about how great their music was. But even from this remove it was possible to glean certain patterns, and one that recurred as regularly as an urban legend was the one about how someone would move into a commune populated by sandal-wearing, peace-sign flashing flower children, and eventually discover that, underneath this facade, the guys who ran it were actually control freaks; and that, as living in a commune, where much lip service was paid to ideals of peace, love and harmony, had deprived them of normal, socially approved outlets for their control-freakdom, it tended to come out in other, invariably more sinister, ways.

    Applying this to the case of Apple Computer will be left as an exercise for the reader, and not a very difficult exercise.

    It is a bit unsettling, at first, to think of Apple as a control freak, because it is completely at odds with their corporate image. Weren't these the guys who aired the famous Super Bowl ads showing suited, blindfolded executives marching like lemmings off a cliff? Isn't this the company that even now runs ads picturing the Dalai Lama (except in Hong Kong) and Einstein and other offbeat rebels?

    It is indeed the same company, and the fact that they have been able to plant this image of themselves as creative and rebellious free-thinkers in the minds of so many intelligent and media-hardened skeptics really gives one pause. It is testimony to the insidious power of expensive slick ad campaigns and, perhaps, to a certain amount of wishful thinking in the minds of people who fall for them. It also raises the question of why Microsoft is so bad at PR, when the history of Apple demonstrates that, by writing large checks to good ad agencies, you can plant a corporate image in the minds of intelligent people that is completely at odds with reality. (The answer, for people who don't like Damoclean questions, is that since Microsoft has won the hearts and minds of the silent majority--the bourgeoisie--they don't give a damn about having a slick image, any more then Dick Nixon did. "I want to believe,"--the mantra that Fox Mulder has pinned to his office wall in The X-Files--applies in different ways to these two companies; Mac partisans want to believe in the image of Apple purveyed in those ads, and in the notion that Macs are somehow fundamentally different from other computers, while Windows people want to believe that they are getting something for their money, engaging in a respectable business transaction).

    It's as applicable now as it was in the late 1990s. That bit of Apple's corporate culture is straight from Steve Jobs.

  • Re:well (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @09:00AM (#25149863)

    But if you don't agree to the NDA, then you are obviously going to loose your developer membership, which is required to get your apps in the store. You may not agree that the whole situation is fair, but they sure as hell have the legal right to do what they're doing here -- they have a whole team of good lawyers to make sure of that.

  • by PainMeds (1301879) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @09:03AM (#25149901)
    Android may or may not provide competition for Apple. What is providing competition for Apple, however, is the growing pool of independent developers writing jailbreak applications for the iPhone; catering to an even larger open development pool and more reasons to jailbreak your device. A year ago, 30% of the market was jailbreaking. Today, that number's got to be much higher. Open developers distributing through Cydia (the third party software repository) are able to compete with AppStore developers, because they can take advantage of otherwise restricted APIs to write better software, and can write apps that Apple deems to be otherwise a threat.
  • by tgd (2822) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @09:09AM (#25149987)

    Click through EULAs have been deemed to be unenforcable.

    I'd be willing to bet that their NDA would be if push came to shove as well.

    And you can't retroactively add things under NDA.

  • Re:well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @09:28AM (#25150243) Homepage

    My company was poised to start developing for the iPhone until I brought this to their attention at the last staff meeting.

    The entire iPhone dev project has been put on hold because of this.

    Apple had better figure out how to pull their heads out of their arse because lots of companies thinking of this will instantly back off like we have.

    I know I was going to write some apps, but I'm not going to pay $99.00 to be blessed to write freeware and then have my apps rejected.

  • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @09:44AM (#25150497)

    Can I run Android on an iPhone ....?

  • by cowscows (103644) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @09:56AM (#25150659) Journal

    Actually, if you keep up on the Apple blogs and such, even a lot of long-time Apple fanboys are having trouble understanding Apple's play here. It's less a question of whether or not they're legally entitled to do what they're doing (it is their App store afterall), but more just a general wonder what Apple is trying to accomplish with the arbitrary nature of restrictions that they've created.

    Long time and successful mac developers are wondering what the hell is going on. They see Apple rejecting well designed iPhone applications for reasons that haven't been previously disclosed, and it makes them hesitant to produce applications of their own for fear of having it rejected over some rule that they were never told about.

    And looking at this from another angle, the NDA has meant that there aren't good forums or anything online for developers to share iPhone programming tricks or issues or whatever. Not to mention that you can't go buy a book about it to help you learn. That's just another wall that Apple has built that developers have to find their way over in order to make applications.

    Again, Apple is probably fully within their legal rights to reject any application for any reason. But that still doesn't make it smart for them to do so. If they want to create a mobile platform, which it seems fairly obvious is a goal of theirs, then nobody is really sure how Apple's actions so far have helped. They're still selling the phones by the truckload, so maybe it doesn't matter that much to them, but taking the longer view, a lot of people who had been very excited about the iPhone are having a hard time seeing where Apple is going with this.

  • Re:well (Score:4, Interesting)

    by darjen (879890) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @09:58AM (#25150681)

    I would really like to develop an app for my ipod touch that will allow me to preview music with headphones while creating a playlist and playing it with an rca out from the dock connector. I can easily see apple banning it though, so fuck that.

  • Re:well (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @10:00AM (#25150709)
    No, you don't loose anything. Nothing what so ever is loosened if you don't agree to the NDA. The first 1000 times I saw this, fine. What is so difficult about he difference between loose and lose? Seriously people. If you want to sound interesting and informative and not an AOL OMG NFW BBQ BBL leet speaker, get at least the most common parts of the language down.

    And I heard from a non-native speaking friend of mine it's only the native speakers that screw it up. Because the way they think of words in there[sic] head, loose would never accidentally come out as lose.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 25, 2008 @10:11AM (#25150883)

    When my customers complain about the services I provide, I ponder their complaints and think of ways of addressing them. I don't always succeed in finding workable solutions, but I do try...after all, my customers are my bread and butter.

    I don't respond by making them sign contracts forcing them to stop complaining. That kind of bully-like behavior would leave me without customers in the blink of an eye. But even if it wouldn't...even if I did hold some kind of vice-grip on them...I wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing I had treated them so badly after accepting their money.

    But then again....I am not a jerk.

  • Canary? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TaoPhoenix (980487) * <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Thursday September 25, 2008 @10:11AM (#25150889) Journal

    What about the Canary approach?

    1. "I promise under penalty of Perjury not to actively state a false status of my app. with Apple."

    2.
    "Today I was not declined by Apple."
    "Today I was not declined by Apple."
    "Today I was not declined by Apple."
    "Today I was not declined by Apple."

    3. ( ... Crickets ... )

  • Re:Does Steve know? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ruin20 (1242396) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @10:16AM (#25150951)

    Why do they insist on shooting themselves in the foot like this?

    Because the gun's not loaded, lets face it, most people will not be upset about this, and if a feature is that freaking cool that it needs to be developed or you're going to have mass panic, then Apple will do it themselves.

    The user isn't going to care how the company treats the developer, especially now that the developer is being banned from complaining. Their competition is development on other platforms, and even then, their lack of media text messages or copy-and-paste functionality, must have features of two to three years ago, shows that even if there is big features missing, their consumer base isn't going to care.

  • netshare? wtf? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by anomaly256 (1243020) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @10:27AM (#25151137)
    Wait.. you actually think the netshare ban, in countries where the telcos don't block tethering, was 'reasonable'? I sure as hell hope you're just trolling and aren't really this retarded!
  • by Britz (170620) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @10:27AM (#25151149) Homepage

    Studies Say Ideology Trumps Facts
    http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/09/25/036232 [slashdot.org]
    This comment was very nice: "cognitive dissonance"
    http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=975171&cid=25148179 [slashdot.org]
    Applied to Apple it would mean that people that bought completely overpriced Apple products are now looking for justification and trying to convince other people that it was right to spend so much money.

  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Thursday September 25, 2008 @10:32AM (#25151227)

    Click through EULAs have been deemed to be unenforcable.

    Common fallacy here on Slashdot - EULAs in general have not been found to be unenforcable. Certain terms of certain EULAs have been, and some jurisdictions place some restrictions on them, but there has been no general, catch all legal ruling on the concept of EULAs in general.

  • Re:well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by electrictroy (912290) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @10:35AM (#25151279)

    Precisely.

    A few years ago when Paypal was taken to court, most of the "user agreement" was thrown-out since it violated state or federal laws. The judge decided that consumers can not sign-away their legal protections. Apple's unsigned or shrinkwrapped NDA would also be thrown-out for similar reasons.

    And to be honest, even if I was legally-bound to the NDA, I'd still disclose the whys and wherefores of my application rejection. From time-to-time, liberty must be protected with a little civil disobedience in order to protect one's rights, privileges, and freedoms.

  • Re:well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 3dr (169908) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @10:38AM (#25151329)

    I, too, have been working on three apps, and have put them on hold.

    The seemingly arbitrary blocking/rejection of certain apps makes me wonder just what their criteria is. For some, such as the net tethering application, it is obvious (direct competition/avoidance of AT&T's minutes plans). But for other apps, what is the criteria?

    It is starting to look like the iphone app market is closing, because if Apple is declaring certain apps to be "duplicate functionality", then how can competition have a role?

    The developers who were first to the store have all the advantage right now. I.e., timing, not functionality or merit, is key. Apple should clarify exactly what they are doing, which policies they are employing to make this determination.

    Maybe I'll just write some "flashlight" apps -- those always get accepted. /rolls eyes

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 25, 2008 @10:42AM (#25151419)

    As far as their technological integration of products go, they are superior in many ways to most other products. The ownership of the HW, OS and application SW and the integration they do with them out of the box makes them very good.

    But, unfortunately, they are totatally, absolutely control freaks, not only of their products, but of their users. Instead of allowing people to do what they wish with something they buy from them, they force you to do anything and everything exactly as they believe is best - regardless of whatever other good ways there are to do something.

    This is why, while I like their products, I will never buy one.

  • by JSBiff (87824) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:27AM (#25152087) Journal

    Ok, I'm not sure if that's entirely the right expression, but courts will often refuse to enforce clauses in contracts which are a dramatic expansion of the intended purposes of contract law.

    I think in California, non-compete agreements which prevent people from working for any other employer in the same industry were struck down under this principal, and I would imagine that a clause which restricts you from even sharing with other parties that your app was rejected, and under what terms, would be in the same boat.

    Non-disclosure agreements are intended to protect true secrets, like the formula or means of production for a product. The knowledge that an application was rejected, man, I can't see *how* that is really a company secret, other than Apple just wanting to silence criticism, which courts do not look favorably upon.

    Now, I could potentially see the *why* of the rejection being covered by an NDA, *if and only if* the reason for rejection was a technical reason which would require the disclosure of a technical secret in order to explain. Still, anything that an app developer is doing for a platform shouldn't be a 'secret'.

    Anyhow, I for one have started looking at the Android platform, and it's certainly interesting. Still feels a bit immature in terms of lacking some things, but I imagine a lot of the 'missing' stuff will be added with future releases. I'm hoping for, among other things, VOiP support when I'm on a WiFi network (that might, hopefully, come through third-party apps, but I think I saw a quote somewhere that Google has done something to try to prevent Apps from implementing VoIP, but not sure), and Ogg Vorbis & Theora support in the media player component (I've encoded much of my pre-Internet CD collection to Ogg).

  • Re:well (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lysergic.acid (845423) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:43AM (#25152323) Homepage

    yea, but that's not how the legal system works--it's how it should work, but not how it does in reality.

    for instance, i used to work at an indie record label here in SoCal that i later left for personal reasons. a few days ago my boss dropped by my apartment to say hi and ask me to help him with a problem that recently arose. now, amongst the label's back catalog is a now defunct band called Acid Bath, and they have a popular song called Dr. Seuss is Dead. when the album containing this track (When the Kite String Pops) was originally published, the band spelled the title incorrectly as Dr. _Suess_ is Dead and that's what was printed on all the track listings. seeing as "Dr. Seuss" is a trademarked name, my boss decided to play it safe and keep the misspelling all these years (the album was released in 1994).

    oddly enough, after i left the company, my boss decided to have the spelling mistake corrected. so what happened was that the estate of Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), or their lawyers rather, found some Acid Bath merchandise being auctioned off on e-bay--we actually printed a Dr. Seuss is Dead t-shirt with original artwork by a friend of the band. the e-bay seller apparently rolled on the record label, and the lawyers came after my boss and demanded that he take all of the Dr. Seuss is Dead/When the Kite String Pops merchandise off the site, and also hand over all the leftover stocks of the albums/DVDs/hoodies/t-shirts/posters/etc.

    despite the fact that this is a legal parody, and that the band really only makes a single reference to Dr. Seuss in in the actual lyrics, the Geisel estate has threatened to take legal action against my boss and his company if their demands aren't met. frankly, i don't see any legal basis for their claims. this is clearly a protected form of trademark fair use. but the reality of the matter is, the Geisel estate is a multi-billion-dollar corporation, and my boss, though a rich man, simply doesn't have the money to take them on in court. the legal feels alone would force him to settle out of court.

    so it doesn't matter if a claim is legally grounded or not. it only matters that the party making the claim/demands is a multi-billion-dollar corporation and the defense is not. like most people facing a legal threat from a large corporation, your only real option is just to meet their demands unless you want to be bankrupted by court/lawyer fees.

  • Re:well (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dondelelcaro (81997) <don@donarmstrong.com> on Thursday September 25, 2008 @03:18PM (#25155631) Homepage Journal

    By integrity, I mean that the iPhone as a small OS would not be a junk anything-goes resource manager, but a stable runtime environment for which people can develop stable applications.

    A platform whose stability is dependent on the restriction of development to specific code is insanely fragile. It should not be possible for developers to destabilize the platform using the published APIs, as the underlying OS should properly manage its APIs and resources. Furthermore, it's not like code audits are performed on the applications that are in the app store, so these arguments are rather specious.

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