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No iOS App for EFF as it Blasts 'Outrageous' Apple Developer Agreement

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) blasted the "outrageous" and "onerous" Apple Developer Agreement in explaining why the civil liberties organization won't have an app on the Apple App Store.

"As we have been saying for years now, the Developer Agreement is bad for developers and users alike," the EFF said last week in a statement titled, "Sorry iPhone Users: Apple's Dev Agreement Means No EFF Mobile App for iOS."

The San Francisco-based EFF describes itself as a "nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world." The EFF, founded in 1990, says it "champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development."

The "EFF Alerts" app in question is designed to help people quickly act on digital rights issues through their smartphones by:

  • Calling or e-mailing the U.S. Congress to help advocate for better technology laws.
  • Tweeting at the White House to ask for better policies.
  • Helping get the word out about a specific project or campaign EFF is running.
  • Taking actions internationally to help preserve digital rights in your country, and around the world.

In a little less than a week, the EFF Alerts app has been installed 1,000 to 5,000 times, according to the Google Play store for Android apps, with an average rating of 4.3 on a scale of 0 to 5.

"The app allows folks to connect to our action center quickly and easily, using a variety of mobile devices," the EFF said. "Sadly, though, we had to leave out Apple devices and the folks who use them. Why? Because we could not agree to the outrageous terms in Apple's Developer Agreement and Apple's [Digital Rights Management] DRM requirements."

The EFF cited numerous problems with the Apple Developer Agreement, including: its ban on public statements about terms of the agreement; its ban on reverse engineering; App Store-only distribution for apps built with the Apple SDK, so if an app is rejected, it can't be distributed through competing stores; the ban on tinkering with Apple products, or "jailbreaking"; the requirement that Apple approve all security releases and bug fixes, which if not acted on promptly could endanger users; and the stipulation that Apple can kill an app at any time.

"Lots of developers hold their nose and sign the agreement despite these onerous conditions, and that's understandable," the EFF said. "The Apple App store is a huge market and hard to ignore if you want your business to succeed. And sometimes, developers have to weigh these onerous restrictions against not just their ability to survive financially, but also their ability to reach and protect users from snooping and censorship."

Issued last Wednesday, the EFF statement included a call to users to sign a petition asking Apple to "Fix Your Developer Agreement." As of this writing, it had garnered about 1,070 signatures. In the meantime, the EFF app is available only on the Google Play store, which, coincidentally, last year for the first time issued more new apps than the Apple store, according to a report from AppFigures issued just today. Also, AppFigures reported that, "More developers joined Google in 2014 than Apple and Amazon combined! With developers flocking to Google Play, the store has reached a new milestone: 388,000 developers -- more developers than Apple (with 282,000 developers) and Amazon (with 48,000 developers)."

The EFF's complaint came just one day before Apple announced single-day and single-week sales records, raking in about $500 million from iOS apps in the first week of January.

In its statement, Apple emphasized how much money was paid out to developers. "These milestones follow a record-breaking 2014, in which billings rose 50 percent and apps generated over $10 billion in revenue for developers. To date, App Store developers have earned a cumulative $25 billion from the sale of apps and games."

But Apple itself isn't doing so bad itself with App Store proceeds, Time pointed out. "Since Apple keeps 30 percent of the revenue from each App Store transaction, that means the company pocketed about $4.3 billion from app transactions last year. Time estimated that since the store opened in 2008, Apple has earned more than $10 billion in app sales.

But even if it cost money, the EFF app won't be generating anything for Apple.

"We are not releasing an iPhone app at this time," the EFF said. "As we've been saying for years, 'Developers should demand better terms and customers who love their iPhones should back them.' At EFF, we walk our talk. We will not agree to contract terms that we couldn't endorse for others, and we certainly will not wrap our app in DRM."

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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