Friday, January 20, 2012

Apple Needs to Rethink Its iBook Author EULA

More details on the iBook Author EULA from CNET's Ed Bott...

"Over the years, I have read hundreds of license agreements, looking for little gotchas and clear descriptions of rights. But I have never, ever seen a legal document like the one Apple has attached to its new iBooks Author program.

I read EULAs so you don’t have to. I’ve spent years reading end user license agreements, EULAs, looking for little gotchas or just trying to figure out what the agreement allows and doesn’t allow.

I have never seen a EULA as mind-bogglingly greedy and evil as Apple’s EULA for its new ebook authoring program.

Dan Wineman calls it “unprecedented audacity” on Apple’s part. For people like me, who write and sell books, access to multiple markets is essential. But that’s prohibited: 
'Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. As far as I know, in the consumer software industry, this practice is unprecedented.'
Exactly: Imagine if Microsoft said you had to pay them 30% of your speaking fees if you used a PowerPoint deck in a speech."

- read the rest of Mr. Bott's article here

As usual, authors must be aware. As content creators, it is our responsibility to read our contracts with care. This isn't like when we were consumers. We can't just walk away after we sign stuff. We have dogs in the race now. If we want to make money off of what we pen, we need to spend time and money protecting the rights to our work.

Personally, I expect Apple to modify the terms of the EULA in short order. I have difficulty believing this is what they intended. This is probably a case of a legal department getting a bit ahead of their management (rather than the clumsiest attempt at copyright domination in the history of the world). But we don't sign on intentions. We sign on contracts. My suggestion (not a lawyer; don't wanna be one) is to wait for a correction to the EULA language before even considering to publish your work with iBook Author software.

B.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more.

Incidentally, while Apple seems to be (hopefully accidentally) trying to screw over authors, Adobe is simultaneously doing its level best to do the same to readers with its new epub3 format.

Here's the article if you're interested:
http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/how-publishers-should-prepare-for-epub-3/

“...Users want features. They want eye candy, they want sharing..."

Now your ebooks can integrate facebook, twitter, even make phone calls - all while simultaneously monitoring your reading behavior. One wonders if (again, paralleling what happened with Apple's EULA) Adobe's executives ever consulted anyone outside the boardroom.

Paolo said...

If you don't agree to the terms you can always author your book in html/javascript/CSS or other tools.... For a long time according to MS development tools EULA it was forbidden to develop products similar to MS Office, and I never heard complaints.
Every EULA brings quirks: do you think it's normal that every EULA basically tells "it's your problem if it doesn't work" when you've paid for the software ?

B. Justin Shier said...

@anon 1:02:

Isn't epub3 a non-proprietary product of the idfp (http://idpf.org/)? Do you mean to say that Adobe is influencing the epub3 design or generating their own proprietary version off the epub3 base standard?

BTW, if you don't think Amazon isn't monitoring your reading behavior already...

@Paolo:

"If you don't agree to the terms you can always author your book in html/javascript/CSS or other tools...."

Agreed. And that is the course I recommend. There are plenty of excellent tools out there, but even with these tools, uploading content onto the iBook store is a PITA. That is why a lot of authors were hoping that Apple would announce a means of easily uploading content onto their site like Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords already offer.

But those are all secondary matters. The real problem I have is in the vague wording of the EULA. I cannot determine from my reading of it what Apple intends. A strict reading of it is terrifying, while a contextual reading of it makes it only appear quite poorly worded (thus the title of my post).

"Every EULA brings quirks: do you think it's normal that every EULA basically tells "it's your problem if it doesn't work" when you've paid for the software ?"

I don't usually have a problem with those clauses because I only purchase software that I can get a refund on. My problems with EULAs generally arise when they try to reach beyond the scope of "usage" and into the realm of "output". If I discover a usage issue in a EULA, I can abandon the product. If I discover a EULA output issue, they can chase after me even if I leave.

B.