Last month, EFF got an email from software developer Duane Fields of Exact Magic, asking if he could use our logo on an iPhone application that exclusively displays content from EFF's RSS feed. Sounded like a great idea to us, as long as it was clear that the app wasn't an EFF-sponsored product.
But this morning Apple rejected the app. Why? Because it claims EFF's content runs afoul of the iTune's App Store's policy against "objectionable" content. Apparently, Apple objects to a blog post that linked to a "Downfall" parody video created by EFF Board Chairman Brad Templeton. The parody casts Hitler in the role of entertainment industry executive, ranting about the failure of DRM and the continued popularity of fair use. The parody includes the fleeting appearance of the f-bomb in a subtitle.
Now, Apple may find EFF "objectionable" for any number of reasons (here's just one.) But surely linking to a video that includes a "bad word" can't be one of them. After all, the YouTube app that Apple includes on every iPhone that ships will let you watch exactly the same video, bad word and all. And you can use the Safari web browser that ships with every iPhone to access EFF's website, as well as millions of web sites that include much more extreme language.
This is just the latest example of the failings of Apple's iTunes App Store approval process, which has been revealed to be not just anti-competitive, discriminatory, censorial, and arbitrary, but downright absurd. Just last month, Apple was widely criticized when it rejected the Eucalyptus e-book reader because it could access the public domain translation of the Kama Sutra (Apple quickly reversed course on that one).
Let's be clear: we are not saying that Apple has to carry apps it doesn't like in its App Store. But iPhone owners who don't want Apple playing the role of language police for their software should have the freedom to go elsewhere. This is precisely why EFF has asked the Copyright Office to grant an exemption to the DMCA for jailbreaking iPhones. It's none of Apple's business if I want an app on my phone that lets me read EFF's RSS feed, use Sling Player over 3G, or read the Kama Sutra.
UPDATE: Apparently, Apple has changed its mind and has now approved the EFF Updates app. This despite the fact that the very same material is still linked in various EFF posts (including this one!). Just one more example of the arbitrary nature of Apple's app approval process.