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Apple May Loosen Content Restrictions on App Store

Apple May Loosen Content Restrictions on App Store
May 5, 2009 1:49PM

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While Trent Reznor of the Nine Inch Nails band is decrying Apple, Inc.'s rejection of the nin: access app for its App Store, there are signs Apple may be loosening its content rules. The upcoming release of iPhone OS 3.0 has parental controls built in, and some rejected developers have been asked to resubmit in the proper age category.

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Trent Reznor, the driving force behind the industrial metal band Nine Inch Nails (NIN), is reportedly a big fan of Apple's iPhone. So it's not terribly surprising that NIN recently released an iPhone app, nin: access, that is designed to provide fans with news and information about the band, including concert footage, scheduling updates, and music remixes. Like many other band apps, nin: access taps into the iPhone's GPS to help fans locate other fans nearby.

Unfortunately, however, NIN fans can't download the app -- at least not right away. According to a post by Reznor on the NIN online forum, the Apple App Store rejected nin: access for violating the store's terms of service.

"The objectionable content referenced in this e-mail," the anonymous App Store reviewer said, "is The Downward Spiral. Since the app is live on the App store, please make the necessary changes to the application as soon as possible, and resubmit your binary to iTunes Connect. Thank you."

What About iTunes?

The App Store's refusal to allow download of nin: access 1.0.3 underscored the somewhat capricious logic of Apple's vetting process (the same vetting process, as many pointed out, that initially approved the horrific Baby Shaker app). As Reznor pointed out, The Downward Spiral is not actually part of nin: access -- it's part of a podcast that users can download from the band's Web site.

Moreover, the entire song can be purchased and downloaded from Apple's iTunes Store for just 99 cents. "How does that make sense?" Reznor asked. "You can buy The Downward F***ing Spiral on iTunes, but you can't allow an iPhone app that may have a song with a bad word somewhere in it?"

The prohibition against possibly indecent apps seems even sillier given the fact that Apple included a Web browser in the standard software of the iPhone and iPod touch, which gives any user access to the universe of adult content on the Web. It was a point Reznor made in typically graphic and unprintable fashion.

This isn't Reznor's first battle against the censorship of corporate America. He famously refused to tone down NIN's music to make it acceptable to Wal-Mart (as many artists did), pointing out that the company freely sold unaltered copies of the ultra-violent movie Scarface and the video game Grand Theft Auto.

Adults-Only App Store?

Like many censors before it, the App Store may be discovering that keeping its products pure as the driven snow may be more hassle than it's worth, and ultimately impossible.

That could help explain why the upcoming release of the iPhone software, version 3.0, will have varying parental controls built in, including 4+, 9+, 12+, and 17+. (A separate issue worth discussing another time is why Apple thinks a 4-year-old should have an iPhone or iPod touch.)

In anticipation of the new age categories, Apple has sent letters to developers whose apps have been rejected, telling them that they can be resubmitted in the appropriate age bracket. There is no word whether NIN was among the recipients.

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