Jan 24, 2012

More on Apple's EULA

Joe Wilcox provides a good roundup. These two points get to the heart of the issue:
This is a software EULA which for the first time attempts to restrict what I can do with the output of the app, rather than with the app itself. No consumer EULA I've ever seen goes this far. Would you be happy if Garage Band required you to sell your music through the iTunes Store, or if iPhoto had license terms that kept you from posting your own photos online? It’s a step backward for computing freedom and we should resist it...

Restricting use is what EULAs have traditionally done. This one does something different: it restricts what you can do with the output of the software after the software is closed and put away. If you make a document using iBooks Author, you aren't allowed to sell that document except through Apple, ever, for the rest of your life.
And a bit about the legal background:
Qualifying that I'm not a lawyer, I know a few things about copyrights, as someone who writes for a living and who has reported on software copyrights and EULAs for 18 years. For example, software sidesteps typical US copyright terms allowing copying by being licensed, not sold. Developers like Adobe and Microsoft would be helpless against people copying software for personal use if not for laws supporting licensing. You pay for the application, but the developer retains all rights; technically you didn't buy anything, and the developer can retract your use of the software at any time.

Content produced by software like Word is typically sold, not licensed, which is one of many, many reasons why Microsoft couldn't restrict distribution of the writer's works like Apple tries to. It's also major reason why Wineman's calling the EULA "unprecedented" is gross understatement. Apple is trying to extend its rights over yours and doing so attempting to establish a dangerous precedent about which copyright supersedes the other -- yours as the content producer and Apple's as software developer and content distributor. I simplify complex copyright laws here, to make the point.
For online freedom types, this is a point well worth pressing in the courts, both to obtain clarification and to provide an angle of attack should the courts rule that software developers can claim infinite rights. As Dan Wineman (quoted above) hat we're seeing here is the sharp edge of developers' ever-increasing claim on power.

The whole "licensing" idea is bogus in my opinion, and should be replaced by something more akin to the "first sale doctrine," but in any case this is even more outrageous. Imagine if your toaster company laid legal claim, not only to your toaster, but also to what you did with your toast.

No one would stand for it.

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