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Are Apple App Store Bans Due to Third-Party Rights?

Okay, the iTunes App Store approvals process needs to be canned and re-invented. First there was Google Voice, then Apple banned a dictionary for profanity, and now it's ditching e-readers. What the hell is going on?

Bill of RightsThis latest intrigue has been uncovered by the guys at The Unofficial Apple Weblog, who heard through various connections that Apple has begun to reject every e-book app submission from developers because "this category of applications is often used for the purpose of infringing upon third party rights."

And, on the face of it, this is just plain crazy. It's like a store saying "we've stopped selling ballpoint pens and notepads because people sometimes use them to write stories that plagiarize other writer's works." And it's a glaring double-standard, since Apple's own iPhone browser, mobile Safari, can be used to surf to "infringing" e-books which are published as Web pages. It's kind of in line with Apple's app publication policies, and it even can be seen as preventing spurious law suits. But it's still crazy.

And it doesn't stop there. TUAW also heard from an anonymous developer that an app he'd developed for a "national content syndicate", meaning he could demonstrably prove he had the rights to distributing the media the app was designed to access, was also rejected without recourse.

What the heck is happening? Has Apple just gone mad? Are there ridiculous mavericks working inside the App Store approvals system?

There is one little nugget of an argument that makes sense, but it's an unpleasant one. Recently there were some leaks about Apple's deals with record labels to reinvent the album with boosted content—the so-called "Cocktail" program—and these arrived not long after rumors the company was getting into the e-book game. It's arguable that Apple's apparently ridiculously stance on third party content rights is a blanket policy designed to lay the groundwork for its own entry into these markets. Personally I find that hard to believe, and I'm waiting for the official and logical explanation to surface alongside a revamp of the app approval system. But I think others out there would imagine Steve Job's fruity company is more than capable of such evil.

[via TUAW]

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