The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) petitioned NASA (an iPhone developer - iTunes link) under the Freedom of Information Act to provide them with a copy of Apple's iPhone SDK License Agreement, and have gone through and provided both a link to the agreement (an older version, provided at the time of the request) and some analysis of what it contains.

For those not familiar with the document, it contains the legal terms a developer must agree to before they can develop for the iPhone platform. Since the EFF and Apple have been duking it out over Jailbreaking for a while now -- the EFF wants Jailbreaking to be made an official exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and Apple has opposed that move -- the EFF thinks the SDK agreement is particularly interesting at the moment.

The major points brought out and up by the EFF include:

  • One rule of the SDK license agreement is you can't talk about the SDK license agreement. Despite it not being "Apple confidential information" developers are contractually prohibited from discussing it in public.
  • Apps developed using the SDK can only be released through the iTunes App Store. So if Apple rejects you for any reason, according to their own guidelines or just on whim, you can't release via Jailbreak or on a competing platform (if any were compatible).
  • No reverse engineering or helping others reverse engineer, even where such actions have legal precedent as exceptions to copyright.
  • No hacking or helping hack any Apple products. That means no Jailbreaking the iPhone, no putting Boxee on your AppleTV, no loading Linux on your iPod Classic.
  • Kill switch is informed in the agreement. Apple can revoke your certificate at any time. (Though they've yet to ever do this).
  • If Apple messes up and owes a developer damages, those damages will never exceed $50, so good luck suing for millions over your rejected Sexy App or RSS Template.

The EFF is none to pleased at the one-sided, gate-kept, stifling terms of the SDK Licensing agreement and good for them. And good for us as well. The way we look at it we need the opposing forces of Apple Legal and the EFF always pushing for more on both sides. Apple's going to want to protect themselves as much as possible and the EFF is going to want to show us every way they're doing it so if we don't like it, we can vo.

We've used the analogy of restaurants before. The iPhone is Apple's boutique, haut-cuisine eatery. They set the menu. You can't go there, demand a burger, and then throw a fit when they tell you they don't serve it. (Well you can, but you'd be nuts -- Apple's not in the business of serving burgers). Instead of Gordon Ramsey you get Steve Jobs crafting your dining experience, and if you go there, that's what you should expect -- to trade control for ease of use (as opposed to Google where you trade privacy for free service). However, the EFF making sure the ingredients are what we're told they are, and that the kitchen is kept clean and compliant with local ordinances -- that's good for us, and it's good for Apple.

Check out the EFF article, take a look at the agreement, and let us know what you think.

[Thanks to Fassy for the tip!]