Apple’s iPhone app store is Apple’s iPhone app store — which means Apple can block whatever app it wants for whatever reason it wants. So we have no problem with Apple’s banning a comic book called “Murderdrome” because the company thought it was objectionable — that’s Apple’s call.
But it reinforces the need for something many developers have been clamoring for since the iPhone app store launched in July: A better feedback loop between Apple and developers — and some kind of appeal process.
A quick recap: A company called Infurious Comics is working on a business that will help comic book artists distribute their work through Apple’s iPhone app store via a template app called Comic Reader, which can be customised for each comic book. But “Murderdrome,” the proof of concept comic book they hoped to launch with, didn’t make it past Apple’s censors. The clause of Apple’s software developers kit that “Murderdrome” violated, according to Fortune:
Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users.
The point, obviously, is to keep hardcore porn and bludgeoning out of the app store. Whatever — that’s Apple’s business decision to make. And we bet Google (GOOG) will have a similar rule for apps it distributes in its forthcoming Android store.
Apple (AAPL) has been in the content business since it launched the iTunes store in 2003, when it began selling music via iTunes. But the music and movies it sells and rents are pretty much pre-vetted by middlemen before they get to Apple. The App store is a different story: Apple employees are now assessing dozens of applications a day, which means they’re going to be asked to constantly make subjective decisions about whether something is “too violent” or “too sexual” for iPhone-toting youth or anyone else.
Again, it’s their store, and it’s their call. But we’d bet that a lot of this stuff isn’t clear-cut: Is “Murderdrome” really more violent than, say, “Transformers”? You got us. But we bet that a lot of Apple folks may not be clear about it, either — and that if a given publisher was able to make their case, they might be able to get Apple to change its mind. The same holds true for developers who’ve had their apps removed for other reasons, too. Some sort of appeals court would give them a chance, and could earn Apple a heck of a lot of goodwill. Not a bad thing to have as it prepares to go up against Google.
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