Revealed: Apple's draconian app developer contract

By Ry Crozier on Mar 11, 2010 8:21 AM
Filed under Software

EFF says we should demand better.

Apple has reserved the right to kill an iPhone app with or without cause by stopping users from downloading it and revoking its digital certificate, according to copies of the developer agreement published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

It also limited Apple's potential liability to just US$50, the document stated.

The document, purported to be the secretive Apple developer agreement, was obtained by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) from NASA under freedom of information.

A revised copy was later also posted after an earlier callout to readers. It was unclear how EFF obtained this copy since the contract stipulated that developers weren't allowed to discuss the terms of the agreement publicly.

EFF's senior staff attorney Fred von Lohmann said that knowing the license agreement terms was "particularly relevant right now, given the imminent launch of the iPad."

He believed developers "should demand better terms and customers who love their iPhones should back [the developers]."

"If Apple's mobile devices are the future of computing, you can expect that future to be one with more limits on innovation and competition than the PC era that came before," von Lohmann said.

"It's frustrating to see Apple, the original pioneer in generative computing, putting shackles on the market it (for now) leads.

"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."

Von Lohmann was particularly critical of the liability limitation clause, spelled out in section 14 almost entirely in caps lock.

He believed the limit was "pretty remarkable, considering that Apple holds a developer's reputational and commercial value in its hands."

"If Apple botches an update, accidentally kills your app, or leaks your entire customer list to a competitor, the Agreement tries to cap you at the cost of a nice dinner for one in Cupertino," he said.

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