Apple’s app store policy facing court challenge

Regular readers will know we’ve covered plenty of stories about Apple’s approval policy for inclusion in the iTunes App Store: a policy that has seemed inconsistent to say the least. Now one company is threatening to take the matter to court.

Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet recently developed an iPad app that aimed to repackage the contents of the newspaper in a tablet-friendly fashion. Unfortunately for its hopes of acceptance, those contents included Side-9, a daily feature on said page that features a topless woman.

Apple has rejected the app on the grounds that the photographs violate restrictions on adult content. That’s prompted the newspaper’s editor Poul Madsen to complain that the rejection is unfair censorship and a restriction on free speech. He says that if Apple doesn’t reverse its decision, he will consider taking the issue to the European Court of Justice.

Simply on the taste and decency matter, I’d suspect the newspaper has very little chance of success. While European law does cover the issue of free speech, that’s designed more for preventing government censorship than how private publishing companies choose to accept customers. And Apple does have the right to set its own decency standards: this isn’t the same as the newspaper being banned from running its own website.

Where Ekstra Bladet may have a credible point is on the issue of inconsistency. The Sun, a British newspaper, has an iPad app that contains its Page 3 feature, much the same idea as Side-9 but with added puns and a comment on the news by the model that always seems to match the paper’s own editorial line.

On the face of it, Apple clearly isn’t playing fair and, if you wanted to come up with a conspiracy theory, you could point to the fact that The Sun is run by News Corporation, which is planning a major launch of an iPad exclusive newspaper next year.

There may be a key difference, though. The Sun app is a paid app and requires users to confirm they are at least 17. Ekstra Bladet can only play the hypocrisy card if it is willing to play by the same rules and still gets rejected.

To describe Side-9 as pornographic is ludicrous. To ban applications that contain partial nudity when the exact same image can be viewed through Safari is farcical. But as dumb a move as it may be, I’m not convinced Apple is doing anything illegal.





7 Responses to Apple’s app store policy facing court challenge

  1. Apple is NOT doing anything illegal. Only the government can really censor. Apple is a private company, selling things in a store it owns. It is not a public utility, it's not the "only channel on TV".

    Your local bookstore can choose not to stock Playboy (and in fact, that's the norm). Your local software store can choose not to sell Call of Duty if they dislike the game's premise. A television station can choose not to run a movie or TV show if they feel its inappropriate or doesn't meet their audience's desires.

    None of these things are censorship. They seller has the right to determine what they sell, and at what price they sell it. That's capitalism.

    You in turn can choose not to shop at those stores or watch those TV stations to express your dissatisfaction. You can choose not to buy an iPad, knowing that Apple is rather prudish about it's App selection. It would be censorship only if Apple were preventing you from reading the magazine at all, anywhere (or attempting to). Pretty sure their reach isn't that long.

    I don't particularly think it makes sense (it's not porn for goodness sake) but it's not illegal and it's not censorship.

  2. You said the main argument in the end: safari.

    That's the main argument to plead for inconsistency. The nude girls are in the web anyway.

    @Steve: From a legal point you may be right; but the courts are using imo an outdated understanding of censorship.
    capitalism can (and does) censor too

  3. Boo-friggin'-hoo. Apple has its right to reject everything they want – along with the right to reduce or increase their profit throughout those decisions.
    Like Steve said in his previous to last paragraph, one can reject Apple products, but not dictate them how to make them.

  4. You want female breasts with your news? We have an app for that.

    Americans are such friggin’ prudes when it comes to the female body. There’s art and then on the opposite side, there’s porn. In between the two is a HUGE gray area. That pic and the Page 3 pictorials are in that gray area. The problem is that the whole thing from art to porn is completely subjective.

    However, anyone can censor: businesses and corporations. Simply calling it a “business decision” is just a fanciful way of limiting the means of which others can view or read the subject at hand — the very definition of “censorship” itself.

    Who would have thought Steve Jobs would visit, much less respond to this article.

  5. You want female breasts with your news? We have an app for that.

    Americans are such friggin' prudes when it comes to the female body. There's art and then on the opposite side, there's porn. In between the two is a HUGE gray area. That pic and the Page 3 pictorials are in that gray area. The problem is that the whole thing from art to porn is completely subjective.

    However, anyone can censor: businesses and corporations. Simply calling it a "business decision" is just a fanciful way of limiting the means of which others can view or read the subject at hand — the very definition of "censorship" itself.

    Who would have thought Steve Jobs would visit, much less respond to this article.

  6. >Implying that legality is the only measure of whether or not something ought to happen.

    This is why I'm frustrated with modern culture. D;