The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties organization based in San Francisco, used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of the secretive license agreement Apple offers as the only way to distribute applications through their “app store”. According to this license agreement the Apple app store is the only means by which compliant iPhone OS application developers may distribute their iPhone OS applications once the developer agrees to Apple’s onerous terms. How onerous? Take a look at EFF’s highlights from the license agreement:
Ban on Public Statements: As mentioned above, Section 10.4 prohibits developers, including government agencies such as NASA, from making any “public statements” about the terms of the Agreement. This is particularly strange, since the Agreement itself is not “Apple Confidential Information” as defined in Section 10.1. So the terms are not confidential, but developers are contractually forbidden from speaking “publicly” about them.
App Store Only: Section 7.2 makes it clear that any applications developed using Apple’s SDK may only be publicly distributed through the App Store, and that Apple can reject an app for any reason, even if it meets all the formal requirements disclosed by Apple. So if you use the SDK and your app is rejected by Apple, you’re prohibited from distributing it through competing app stores like Cydia or Rock Your Phone.
Ban on Reverse Engineering: Section 2.6 prohibits any reverse engineering (including the kinds of reverse engineering for interoperability that courts have recognized as a fair use under copyright law), as well as anything that would “enable others” to reverse engineer, the SDK or iPhone OS.
No Tinkering with Any Apple Products: Section 3.2(e) is the “ban on jailbreaking” provision that received some attention when it was introduced last year. Surprisingly, however, it appears to prohibit developers from tinkering with any Apple software or technology, not just the iPhone, or “enabling others to do so.” For example, this could mean that iPhone app developers are forbidden from making iPods interoperate with open source software, for example.
You will not, through use of the Apple Software, services or otherwise create any Application or other program that would disable, hack, or otherwise interfere with the Security Solution, or any security, digital signing, digital rights management, verification or authentication mechanisms implemented in or by the iPhone operating system software, iPod Touch operating system software, this Apple Software, any services or other Apple software or technology, or enable others to do so
Kill Your App Any Time: Section 8 makes it clear that Apple can “revoke the digital certificate of any of Your Applications at any time.” Steve Jobs has confirmed that Apple can remotely disable apps, even after they have been installed by users. This contract provision would appear to allow that.
We Never Owe You More than Fifty Bucks: Section 14 states that, no matter what, Apple will never be liable to any developer for more than $50 in damages. That’s pretty remarkable, considering that Apple holds a developer’s reputational and commercial value in its hands””it’s not as though the developer can reach its existing customers anywhere else. So 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.
How long will it be before Apple tries more restrictive terms with their other operating system, MacOS? You should declare your software freedom, refuse to buy Apple’s devices, and do not agree to these terms.
Update 2010-04-15: New version of the license terms posted by EFF, copied locally.