Apple’s secret iPhone developer contract revealed

Apple is at the centre of controversy in the developer community this week, as its über secret Developer Program License agreement is published for all to see. Well, almost.

If you want to develop and application for the iTunes App Store, you have to sign the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, but the first rule about the contract is that you can’t talk about the contract. This has made its contents somewhat of a mystery, until now.

Privacy advocacy group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) managed to get a revised version of the document. When NASA recently released an application for the iPhone, the EFF used the Freedom of Information Act to get a copy of the agreement from NASA, one that the organisation was not obliged to sign.

The EFF says the publication of the contract is particularly timely, given the imminent launch of the iPad and the US Copyright Office’s deliberation over whether the DMCA should apply to jailbreaking of the iPhone.

Most of the clauses seem pretty run of the mill “don’t mess with our proprietary technology” stuff, but there are a few that stand out. If a developer builds an iPhone application using the iPhone SDK, which is really the only way to build an application, then that app can only be distributed via the official App Store. It can’t be distributed via something like Cydia.

Apple can also “revoke the digital certificate of any of Your Applications at any time,” and apparently, for any reason, even if the application meets all the requirements. A kill switch for enabling this was discovered in 2008.

Most interestingly, Apple will never be liable to any developer for more than $50 in damages. So if Apple botches an update, accidentally kills an application, or leaks a developer’s entire customer list to a competitor, the contract caps Apple’s liability at $50.

Still, with a few hundred thousand registered, if not active, iPhone developers and over 100,000 apps available in the App Store, Apple must have a market proposition that is attractive enough that it outweighs the restrictions of the developer agreement. Post your responses below.

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  1. Avatar PT 11/03/2010 @ 6:58 am

    Join the EFF 😉

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