Apple is not exactly the most open company in the world. There are a lot of things that Apple doesn’t let out. One of those long-held secrets used to be Apple’s agreement for its iPhone app developers. If you have developed an app for iPhone platform, you have seen and agreed to that agreement. Developers don’t want to risk Apple’s wrath, which is why we haven’t had so many leaks in this area. But NASA’s application for iPhone has brought some unexpected surprised upon Apple. Apple probably didn’t expect anyone to invoke the Freedom of Information Act to dig out the license agreement between Apple and NASA. The EFF has not only done that, but it has also published iPhone development license agreement for everyone to see (read it here).
It’s not hard to imagine what Apple has included in its license agreement. If you think about it, there is a reason why developers don’t talk or complain much about how Apple treats them. There is a ban on any public discussion of the agreement. Apple also forbids its developers from taking their app to underground marketplaces such as Cydia. That has happened a few times, so it’s not clear how Apple has enforced this ban. And what happens if a developer messes up and gets sued? Apple will pitch in $50 and the rest will be on the developers’ shoulders.
These license agreements are in most cases iron clad. Whether you are dealing with Apple or other top companies, you are not going to find too many holes in these documents. As one would expect, Apple does reserve the right to remove your app from its store without you having too much to say about it. You are also forbidden from trying to hack Apple products or reverse engineer Apple’s software.
I am not sure why this document has generated so much buzz on the Internet. If you have worked with any large corporation, you have seen similar license agreements. It’s not surprising to see Apple protects itself against all lawsuits by giving itself complete control of how to deal with your app in case of a violation. Besides, the company should have known that this document will eventually come out. So don’t expect Apple to change its ways now.