EFF Releases iPhone Developer Agreement, Devs Can’t Jailbreak, Other Funny Business Highlighted

It took a Freedom of Information Act request to get it, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted the entire iPhone Developer Program License Agreement on its blog. Normally the EFF wouldn’t be allowed the publish the info, but the fact that NASA created an app made it fair game. NASA responded with the Rev. 3-17-09 version of the agreement, which has reportedly been revised to a certain extent.

The EFF has noted that the version of the agreement they were able to obtain is more restrictive than before and parts of it may not be enfodceable and has listed its concerns below:

Ban on Public Statements: As mentioned above, Section 10.4 prohibits developers, including government agencies such as NASA, from making any “public statements” about the terms of the Agreement. This is particularly strange, since the Agreement itself is not “Apple Confidential Information” as defined in Section 10.1. So the terms are not confidential, but developers are contractually forbidden from speaking “publicly” about them.

App Store Only: Section 7.2 makes it clear that any applications developed using Apple’s SDK may only be publicly distributed through the App Store, and that Apple can reject an app for any reason, even if it meets all the formal requirements disclosed by Apple. So if you use the SDK and your app is rejected by Apple, you’re prohibited from distributing it through competing app stores like Cydia or Rock Your Phone.

Ban on Reverse Engineering: Section 2.6 prohibits any reverse engineering (including the kinds of reverse engineering for interoperability that courts have recognized as a fair use under copyright law), as well as anything that would “enable others” to reverse engineer, the SDK or iPhone OS.

No Tinkering with Any Apple Products: Section 3.2(e) is the “ban on jailbreaking” provision that received some attention when it was introduced last year. Surprisingly, however, it appears to prohibit developers from tinkering with any Apple software or technology, not just the iPhone, or “enabling others to do so.” For example, this could mean that iPhone app developers are forbidden from making iPods interoperate with open source software, for example.

Kill Your App Any Time: Section 8 makes it clear that Apple can “revoke the digital certificate of any of Your Applications at any time.” Steve Jobs has confirmed that Apple can remotely disable apps, even after they have been installed by users. This contract provision would appear to allow that.

We Never Owe You More than Fifty Bucks: Section 14 states that, no matter what, Apple will never be liable to any developer for more than $50 in damages. That’s pretty remarkable, considering that Apple holds a developer’s reputational and commercial value in its hands—it’s not as though the developer can reach its existing customers anywhere else. So if Apple botches an update, accidentally kills your app, or leaks your entire customer list to a competitor, the Agreement tries to cap you at the cost of a nice dinner for one in Cupertino.

Expanding on section 8 of the agreement, Apple can “revoke the digital certificate of any of Your Applications at any time.” This function can even allow Apple to remotely disable apps once they’re out in the wild and installed on iPhones.

Overall, the Agreement is a very one-sided contract, favoring Apple at every turn. That’s not unusual where end-user license agreements are concerned (and not all the terms may ultimately be enforceable), but it’s a bit of a surprise as applied to the more than 100,000 developers for the iPhon who are essentially the sole gateway to the more than 40 million iPhones that have been sold.

Give it a read and let us know what you have to say about this.

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