App Store Cracks Down on Copyright, Ejects 900+ Aggregator Apps, Rejects E-Books


A couple new and interesting cases of App Store rejection, including the stripping Perfect Acumen and owner, Khalid Shaik, of their developer account, and ejecting their 900+ application already in the store, and the blanket rejection of E-Books -- both nebulously tied to copyright infringement or the fear thereof.

Details after the break...

First one comes via MobileCrunch and tells of the aforementioned Khalid Shaik who, using a team of 26 Indian and Pakistani based programmers, turned out a mind-numbing (in more ways than one) 943 apps in the last year. These apps aggregated text or images from the Internet around topics like army news, wrestling news, sexy ladies, etc. and typically sold for $4.99. The only problem, of course, is that Shaik didn't own the rights to the content he was using, and when you start trying to profit off racy pictures of young starlets you pull from the internet, the copyright police will come knocking. (Though apparently other developers were incensed over his marketing methods, and many users were none to pleased with the quality of the apps they purchased).

Apple claims it received complaints about more than one hundred of Shaik's apps, and since Shaik has failed to respond, they've stripped his company, Perfect Acumen, of their developer license and removed his apps from the App Store.

MobileCrunch points out similar developer, Brighthouse Labs and their 1000+ apps have yet to be removed, though Apple may simply be at an earlier point in their internal, infamously opaque ejection process for Brighthouse.

Second, Erica Sadun at TUAW has learned that Apple has begun a blanket rejection of E-Books and E-Book readers due to concerns about copyright infringement. TUAW says there's no evidence to suggest Apple is trying to bully the deck clear in order to launch E-Books as part of iTunes to coincide with their mythically rumored iTablet.

Apple could be responding to the recent Amazon Kindle debacle, where 1984 and Animal Farm were yanked from the service due to copyright infringement claims -- not all books enter the public domain in all countries at the same time, apparently.

Says TUAW:

Apple cannot police the developers and will not allow possibly fraudulent postings on their store. Apple does not want to be in the position of vetting rights claims.

By letting E-Books and E-Book readers into the App Store, Apple will no doubt get DMCA (or equivalent) take down letters by publishers who believe their rights are being infringed. However, this is a cost of doing business everyone from YouTube (which is built into the iPhone) to niche forums face (many of which can be access by the also built-in MobileSafari browser).

Set yourself up as lone gatekeeper, it's hard to feel sympathy when you start cutting corners to get your job done...

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

More Posts



← Previously

New iPhone "App for That" Ads: Share and Travel

Next up →

From the Forums: iPhone Jailbreak?, Yahoo vs Gmail, Tom Tom Car Kit, Wallpapers & Ringtones

Reader comments

App Store Cracks Down on Copyright, Ejects 900+ Aggregator Apps, Rejects E-Books


I'm starting to think the app store is a clear case of a company continuing to do something that makes money even while pissing people off. "Hey, this makes money, but it makes people mad. But it makes more money than it makes people mad, so we'll keep doing it."
Kind of like when you outsource technical support to a bunch of script-reading people who you got at a rate of 20 dollars a week in some other country. Sure, it makes your customers mad, but as long as it doesn't make them leave your business, it's 'worth it'.

Well if I can't read ebooks and/or comics then I will most WONT'T be renewing my iPhone contract or buying the new "media" tablet.
Companies like Fictionwise/eReader already have Geographical Restrictions on those books which they should not sell outside the US.

I really do hope that someone will investigate Apple for these predatory and self-protectionist practices. As an Apple iPhone owner myself, I'm disappointed in the heavy-handed tactics Apple takes toward independent software developers and consumer choice.

I use Kindle and E-Reader extensively. I would have to seriously reconsider my I phone contract without that capability.

of course it's worth it. The main motivation of any company is to make money. If they can still do this while pissing off a minority of their customers why should they give a shit?

What kind of fucking fruit are you that your reading on your iPhone when you have access to tons of free porn online? Not getting enough bars?

You shouldn't have to worry about Kindle or E-Reader. Those are both pretty big name e-book readers.
I don't mind this decision from Apple at all though. I used to grab Java games for my old Sony Ericson and that site was LITTERED with craptastic games that should have never been imagined. I applaud Apple for housecleaning and watching their back. Although, they do have some retarded rejections like the ninja dictionary mentioned previously in the blog.

I just went to the app store and searched for ebook. Books and readers both are still listed. I hope this isn't true about Apple rejecting ebooks and readers blanketly. I read a lot on my phone. But this will help me in my decision to buy a Sony reader if it turns out to be true.

This is the problem with a single source for applications. If Apple let people install from any source they could find, sort of like shipping the phone jail broken, then the problem would not exist.
What they have not yet tumbled to is that the iPhone is not a phone, its a computer you can make calls on. People are wanting to use the iPhone like they currently use their computers. Locking us in to the App store will eventually limit their market share.
Give me a file manager/finder and the ability to put random files in random locations, even let me load other ROM images if I want, and I'd probably never consider another phone. What would I do with that? Well the first thing is adjust my hosts file to block ads.

@ sholloman
I agree with you. That would be great, but I worry about security threats. I have a lot of sensitive informtaion on my phone and it wouldn't be hard for someone to write a data mining app embedded in, what appears to be, another useful and popular app that you download from some random site.
I lean towards the security of knowing my personal information is not comprimised.

You are correct, of course. However, it would make the iPhone just like ever other computer. On macs and pcs you have to worry about where your apps are coming from and if they have a trojan or a virus. You make sure you are not installing from dodgy sources. If we can manage it for ourselves on our laptops we can probably manage the same problem for our phones.
Here's the question, how would people respond if they could only install software on their Powerbooks from the Mac store? What if they couldn't tweak their host files or compile and run random programs? What if they couldn't write to arbitrary folders on disk or even see what files were on disk? What if there was not a way for them to open a Word file they got by email in Word (they had to email the file to another server and then open it in Word)? What if there was no way to sort your pictures into folders without connecting to another computer? What if you couldn't decide which programs, if any, you wanted running in the background? What if you couldn't use Opera or Firefox instead of Safari or Entourage instead of Mail? How well would Mac's sell?
iPhones are computers, with all the good and bad that comes from that. They need to be treated by users and Apple like computers.

While the iPhone is like a handheld computer, it is still a cell phone, which makes it's abilty to function without incident a little more important than that of a computer alone. If you break down in the middle of nowhere your not gonna really care if some crap software is screwing up your computers abilities. However, if said crap software is screwing up your phones ability..well then tour fucked. Of course with AT&T's service it might not matter...(though I must say I personaly have found the service to be quite reliable, this seems to vary widely throughout the country.)

Is the RIAA taking control of Apple or something? This kind of crap is absurd. I'm seriously considering ditching. I hate this crap.

While true that we ought to be more careful about loading things on our phone than our computer, it still ought to be our choice what we load. Freedom is harder than living in a controlled environment, but it has its rewards for those willing to take responsibility.

Taking responsibility is all well and good.....If people are willing to do it. And that's a big if. Besides not everyone lives for their gadgets. Some of of us mearly live with them, and there's nothing worse than a roomate that perpetually fucks your shit up.

Stanza, Kindle, Barnes and Nobel, Fictionwise eReader and a dozen others are still in the store.
I suspect the eReaders in question are the ones that encapsulate a single book. There is no way Apple can police these to see if they have rights.
The raw eReaders that do not come with embedded content where you have to go out and buy/download content are unlikely to be banned. Amazon has more lawyers than Apple has.

If you want your iPhone to be treated like a computer, expect to pay for it like a computer. Take away the subsidies from the carriers and your "phone" costs $800. The iPhone is affordable because of those subsidies, and the restrictions are the price you pay for that. What YOU haven't yet "stumbled upon" as you put it, is that you're not apple's customer. The carrier is. Apple sells the carrier what THEY want, not what you do. As long as an unrestricted device can be used in ways that the carriers don't agree with (skype, free sms services, etc) and they face the prospect of losing money for it, then they will remain locked down exactly as they are.
Now stop your bitching and go jailbreak your device if you want freedom so badly. 90% of iPhone users probably don't, and are quite happy with the simplicity of having someone else worry about all the crap out there. For those who aren't, the option is there, just don't expect Apple to support you if you fuck things up.

Why would subsidies have anything to do with the freedom to run what I want? The subsidies come from the phone company who pays Apple full price for the phone. I'm fine with a lock in to a carrier for a subsidized mobile computer, they make their money on the networking contract. Apple is not subsidizing a thing and they are the ones locking me into their store.
If some people want to let Apple do the driving, more power to you, just give those of us who don't an option that Apple does not consider illegal.

the subsidies have a lot to do with the freedom to run what you want, if they unlock the phone to run any application, from any source, what's to stop you from using google voice, or skype, or VoIP, bypassing voice plan usage alltogether. or using an sms program to bypass sending text messages, or anything of a hundred other things that have the potential to take away from the $ you pay to your carrier.
Second, there's the network impact to consider. What's to stop an unlocked phone user from running a torrent application 24/7 and totally saturating the bandwidth? or any number of other potentially harmful activities one could get in to.
Third of all, Apple can't possibly offer any sort of support if you have freedom to change files and modify anything you please. But if they offer it as an option, people will expect that support. Apple has a VERY large interest in maintaining their image, and that is of a product that simply works. Even if only a few people break their devices by being stupid, that hurts their image.
And last, but certainly not least, the carrier is their customer. Will the carrier sell more phones if they sell unlocked "computer"? no. not noticeably. those who REALLY want that, already jailbreak and have it. and if it doesn't sell more phones, why would they do it?

also, if you have any published official comments from apple stating that they consider jailbreaking ILLEGAL, please refer me to them. Everything official I've seen or heard on the matter is that it is unsupported, and Apple won't help you if you futz up your device. I haven't heard or seen anything officially saying it's illegal. I'd be interested in reading anything you have to the contrary however.

Lets talk about the issue raised regarding bandwidth usage and subsidies, because there is some meat here. Right now ATT sells a subsidized mobile computer and an "unlimited" data plan. Except you aren't supposed to run anything on it that actually consumes much data like Qik, or Sling Player, or downloading apps bigger than 10mb etc. So its not really an unlimited plan.
The biggest reasons I can see to jailbreak an iPhone are: 1) to end run the restrictions on bandwidth intensive apps on, 2) to customize the phone from the ground up (Winterboard etc.), 3) to overcome the inability to run random apps in the background (do it yourself push), and 4) the ability to tinker with files.
I don't really want to run a web server on my iPhone and I only want to run SSH to be able to tinker with files. Apple could give us all but #1 and have no impact on the network.
I'm ok with bandwidth caps, direct or indirect, but Apple needs to let us use the device for what it is, a computer.

  1. never going to happen of course. AT&T is playing dirty pool to avoid manning up and saying 'No unlimited data'. All US ISP's have that problem. Rogers here is at least honest. $30 for 6GB/mo. You know what you're getting, and they don't care how you use it. (and we get MMS too.) Paying more sucks, but at the end of the day, I'd rather pay for an actual published cap, and not deal with the song and dance AT&T goes through.
  2. I definitely agree Apple could make a winterboard feature and add it to the iPhone with little/no ill consequences. it would probably make a lot of people very happy too, but then you run the risk of opening up the iPhone to "carrier branding" via forced themes. Thanks, but I'll stick with generic apple. at least their designs don't make my eyes bleed (I'm looking at you Rogers...) All things considered, I'll give you this one.

3&4. Sorry but I still don't ever see this happening. Could Apple allow backgrounding? Yes. its technically possible. Will they? no. Why? because people will run all sorts of stuff, forget what's running, and complain about slow iphones. WinMo does this, and its TERRIBLE. No, unrestricted backgrounding is a BAD idea. I think Apple could, and perhaps will eventually, approve some apps to allow backgrounding, but I suspect not until the hardware is more up to snuff. the 3G S was definitely a step towards this, and I expect with the 4th Gen iPhone, we'll be close to possibly seeing Apple allow this, if demand stays high for it. But as for running any app you want/tinkering with the files. Nope. If you can run any app you want, you can do things the carriers don't want you to. Like use VoIP to avoid voice charges, or free SMS apps, Google Voice, etc. Carriers would have to be stupid to pay 80% of the cost of the phone for you, and let you side step paying them back. Their contracts depend on you spending x amount of dollars USING the phone, and if you can negate that through apps, they lose $. So you won't ever see unrestricted apps on the iphone, as long as the carriers foot the bill. Plus, there's the whole support issue. Every app, adds to the support costs. Even if they don't support any apps, and state it publicly, there's STILL going to be idiots calling their carrier, or apple and saying 'This doesn't work, and I think you should fix it'. It happens, no avoiding it. unrestricted app installing will increase this exponentially. There's no way the carriers want that burden, and apple doesn't want the iphone experience to get the reputation that Winmo has, for example, so this just won't fly. Sorry to say.
and as for the tinkering with files, if there's ANY restrictions... carrier lock, app restrictions, whatever, apple can't allow tinkering with random files. File access would negate restrictions, because anyone could just go turn them off. So this will never be allowed. at least, not as long as someone else is paying for our phone
Thats the way I see things, at least right now. Would I like things different? sure, but I have jailbreaking. And to all the people complaining, I say go jailbreak and be happy. 90% of people arn't ready, and probably never will be, for the responsibility of being able to tinker with the inner workings of a phone, and those who are, know where to find the way.

i couldn't have said it better myself. Jailbreaking and the like are for a small minority. most are happy as is. The iphone is first and foremost a phone and needs to succesfully function as one above all else.