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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mark Fiore's iPhone app was recently rejected for being satirical. Apple prohibits apps that "ridicule" public figures.  (Source: Nieman Journalism Lab)

One of Fiore's prize-winning flash cartoons involved the White House party crashers from last year.  (Source: Nieman Journalism Lab)
Cartoonist remains hopeful that electronics giant will change its mind

There's no denying that Apple's iTunes and App Store revolutionized the fields of online media sales and smartphone application delivery, respectively.  However, for all the company's success, of late it has a baffling track record of trying to police the morality of the apps that go into its app store.

Initially Apple rejected any apps that overlapped with its functionality, any mature apps, and any other controversial app.  Occasionally a strange one (like "Baby Shaker") would slip through, but generally all these kinds of apps were prohibited.

Recently, Apple promised to improve the process facing complaints from frustrated developers.  And there are signs of that improvement -- Opera Mini, a rival browser, was just approved for the iPhone and numerous adult apps of violent cartoonish nature have been approved.  On the other hand, Apple still is banning mature apps of a sexual nature.

Particularly baffling, though, was the recent rejection of Mark Fiore's iPhone app.  Fiore this year received the distinction of becoming the first online-only journalist to win the Pulitzer prize.  Fiore used to make cartoons for print newspapers, but today runs his own syndication business dealing exclusively with flash cartoons.  He does about 8 cartoons a month, selling for around $300 per site, syndicated to multiple sites, including his main outlet, the SFGate, the website for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Looking to use the latest smartphone technology to grab more fans Fiore crafted a humorous iPhone app with highlights of his award winning, ground-breaking work.  He describes, "I think the iPads and anything iPod to iPhone — to maybe a product not made by Apple — will be good or could be good for distributing this kind of thing."

But there was one tiny problem.  Apple's developer agreement forbids content that "ridicules public figures".  Apple elaborates in its iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, "Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory."

On December 21, 2009 Mr. Fiore received the following email from Apple:

Dear Mr. Fiore,
Thank you for submitting NewsToons to the App Store. We’ve reviewed NewsToons and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains content that ridicules public figures and is in violation of Section 3.3.14 from the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement which states:
Applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.” Examples of such content have been attached for your reference.
If you believe that you can make the necessary changes so that NewsToons does not violate the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, we encourage you to do so and resubmit it for review.
Regards,
iPhone Developer Program

Apparently Apple found the cartoon of the White House gate crashers interrupting an Obama speech (among the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoons) to be offensive.  It attached that screen grab and several others, including a reference to torture, Balloon Boy, and various political issues.

Fiore remains hopeful that his app will eventually get let in.  Fellow cartoonists Tom Richmondand Daryl Cagle , were initially rejected [2] by Apple, only before eventually being allowed in [2].  Those turnarounds took months.

Fiore remains hopeful that Apple will eventually let him in.  He states, "They seem so much more innovative and smarter than that."

Updated: Monday April 19, 2010 8:55 a.m. -
After an outpouring of negative publicity, late Friday Apple contacted Fiore and encouraged him to resubmit the app, indicating that this time they would approve it.

Fiore, however, isn't entirely satisfied with the response.  He states, "I feel a little bit guilty because it feels like I am getting preferential treatment.  It seems like you need to raise a stink to get something political approved.  That's what makes me a little upset, if you are someone people haven't heard of and have an amazing satire app, you won't get this through."

He's willing to give the Cupertino giant a pass, though, saying that maybe they're just adjusting to their role as the world's largest smart phone app host.  He states, "Maybe this is just growing pains.  Hopefully, they will realize, 'Hey, I'm becoming part of the Fourth Estate'. They are becoming the delivery vehicle, and there are some responsibilities that come with that."


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RE: Owned by Apple
By Motoman on 4/16/2010 11:57:35 AM , Rating: 1
That is 100% correct. No one, whether the publisher or the consumer, has any right to complain about what Apple does and doesn't decide to put in it's App Store, regardless of the reason they refuse it (or for no reason at all).

Welcome back to AOL circa 1990. Rampant consumerism and the overwhelming desire to conform have made the iPhone a runaway success. Enjoy your walled garden.


RE: Owned by Apple
By BloodSquirrel on 4/16/2010 3:18:32 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
No one, whether the publisher or the consumer, has any right to complain about what Apple does and doesn't decide to put in it's App Store, regardless of the reason they refuse it (or for no reason at all).


Wrong. People have the right to complain about anything Apple does, for any reason. If Steve Jobs saved a baby from a fire, I'd have the right to complain about it.

What they do not have the right to do is force Apple to change, but I haven't seen anybody argue that.


RE: Owned by Apple
By Motoman on 4/16/2010 9:57:18 PM , Rating: 2
I stand corrected. You have the right to complain about anything you want. What you don't have is any reason to believe anyone cares about what you're complaining about - or that anyone's going to do anything about it.


RE: Owned by Apple
By dark matter on 4/17/2010 5:01:59 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
What they do not have the right to do is force Apple to change, but I haven't seen anybody argue that.


What do you mean "don't have the right to force Apple to change". Of course they do. What is so special about this company that it is allowed to do whatever it pleases. I understand the adoration that a lot of posters on here have for Apple but its only a business at the end of the day and it has to operate within the regulations and laws imposed upon it by the government of the day, the government which you vote for. So don't be pathetic in saying people don't have a right to force Apple to change.


RE: Owned by Apple
By Motoman on 4/17/2010 12:12:41 PM , Rating: 3
No one has a "right" to force a company to change - aside from the government.

People can complain - it is of course your right to free speech to complain about whatever you want. However, citizens have no such authority as to FORCE any company to do anything at all.

...you're trying to imply that by being a democracy (republic), US citizens can indeed "force" a company to change. Good luck with that. Let's just sit back and wait for the referendum to show up on the next ballots labeled "Force Apple to let anyone sell stuff via their App Store that wants to, and force them to run Flash too. Oh, and force them to end their exclusivity agreement with AT&T and have the iPhone run on any and all cellular networks too."

...'cuz that'll happen.


RE: Owned by Apple
By cmdrdredd on 4/17/2010 5:30:32 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
No one has a "right" to force a company to change - aside from the government.


This leads to socialism. The Government should never interfere with business. If people like it let them buy it.


RE: Owned by Apple
By hashish2020 on 4/17/2010 7:02:02 PM , Rating: 1
Yes, you are 100% right. Companies should be allowed to dump PCB's in the Hudson, show hardcore sex in children's amusement parks and dump their sewage on the street. Otherwise, we would become the USSA!


RE: Owned by Apple
By Motoman on 4/17/2010 7:14:12 PM , Rating: 2
...wow. Absolutely unfettered business, with no regard for laws or regulations?

I just invented a new kids' toy - it's called "Bucket of Broken Glass and Antrax Spores." Nope, don't see any need for any laws or other government regulation of business.


RE: Owned by Apple
By Akrovah on 4/19/2010 7:11:52 PM , Rating: 2
What the other two said, plus the facts of history. During the industrial revolution when there was little to no gov. regulation on business we ended up with "Company Towns" where the people were paid in company dollars that were only good at company stores or for paying the rent of company owned housing. This basically locked them into only working for that one company without the ability to go anywhere else because they had no actual US currency.

I support a free market as much as possible, but total un-regulation leads to some downright horrible stuff.


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