Apple v. Satire, part 17.

Pulitzer-prize winning satirist Mark Fiore had his app rejected by Apple because it “ridicules public figures.”

Regular readers will remember that Juggleware’s own app Freedom Time was actually the test case of this unwritten and up-til-then unknown policy, which had not been explicitly defined beyond the word “defamatory” briefly appearing.  For a timeline of other apps (there are at least 16 now) that have been banned for this silly charge, see this blog:

Apple’s Policy on Satire: 16 Apps Rejected for “Ridiculing Public Figures” [Cloud Four]

If there was an app rejected before September 2008 for political satire, we’d like to hear about it; please post in the comments below.

The interesting thing about the Mark Fiore case is that Apple has apparently reconsidered their rejection, and asked Fiore to resubmit his app. That’s great news, but does it really mean Apple is finally reconsidering their rather draconian policy? Or are they just trying to avoid the bad publicity that’s likely to escalate when the content is associated with the winner of a Pulitzer? I guess we’ll have to wait till the next rejection (or approval) to find out.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball makes the point that what’s most frustrating to developers is the grey area of ill-defined rules. Developers trying to navigate App Store policy plays out like trying to divine the will of a god, who is without a doubt omnipotent, but  rarely seems omniscient, and appears to mortals as vindictive and capricious at times. Or perhaps a closer amalgam could be a Kafka-esque bureaucracy, layers of obscure rules unseen by citizens, wheels moving cruelly behind the scenes towards some irreversible and arbitrary concept justice so thickly wrapped in red tape as to be impenetrable?

But back to the heart of it, what’s really so awful about demeaning public figures? Most of them need a swift kick in the ass. If it’s done in a way that’s not illegal or obscene,  that threatens violence or makes a patently untrue claim, then why the censorship? One possible answer might be that that’s it’s just wide cover for one public figure who is sacrosanct in the Apple canon, in which case I would like to suggest the following amendment to the satire rule:  No application may include images, text, or sound that demeans Steven P. Jobs.

At least that way we could still satirize everything else under the sun, and the rule would kind of be a parody of itself.

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