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Apple's outrageous licensing terms for the iBooks Author software

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iBad

What if Microsoft demanded a 30 per cent cut of your speaking fees if you happened to make use of a PowerPoint presentation in your talk? What if you used Photoshop to edit your photos and Adobe only allowed you to sell your creations through their online photo store? Sound crazy? That's what Apple is up to with their new iBook Author software.

In the good old days (a couple of weeks ago) we made use of various computer programs to create things. Some of those programs were "free as in freedom" (my preference) and others were proprietary. Whatever we created, we made a living from in whatever way we wanted to. No software and/or hardware company would ever try to tell us how we could distribute our work or demand a cut of the money we made from selling the work we created with the software we used.

Enter the new world of Apple, post Saint Steve Jobs.

With its brand-spanking new "iBooks Author" software, Apple will totally control anything you create with it that you plan to earn money from. No software vendor has ever tried to exercise this level of control over the end user.

Apple makes iBooks Author available without charge. That's where the goodies end. It's not free software. It's proprietary software.

I'll let Apple's End User License Agreement (EULA) for iBook Author speak for itself:

"If you charge a fee for any book or other work you generate using this software (a "Work"), you may only sell or distribute such Work through Apple (e.g. through the iBookstore) and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple."

So if you want to make a few bucks from something you've created with iBooks Author, you can only sell it via Apple's iBookstore. If you want to use the software to create something for another platform, you're shit out of luck.

Apple's cut for software applications distributed through the Apple app store is normally 30 per cent. So presumably Apple would take a 30 per cent cut of your ebook sales.

Now here's another little nasty tidbit from Apple's EULA

"If your Work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or service), you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions:  (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your work for distribution." (emphasis mine)

Even if you agree to only sell your work through Apple's iBookstore, they can turn around and decide not to distribute it. Your work ends up in iLimbo.

The new iBook file format generated by iBooks Author appears to break the industry standard "EPUB" file format for digital books. It's true that other ebook readers (like the Kindle) use various proprietary file formats. However, unlike Amazon, Apple is supposed to be a member of the "International Digital Publishing Forum" (IDPF), the industry organization that maintains and promotes the use of the EPUB format.

Proprietary computer file formats are always a bad thing. You end up being locked into a particular vendor's software and/or hardware devices because they don't talk to each other.

Microsoft has done this with office software for at least two decades and achieved a complete monopoly. Apple would like to do this with ebooks.

Ed Bott, a tech blogger for ZDNet describes Apple's EULA as "Apple's mind bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement". The headline on PCMag.com blogger Sascha Segan's column on January 20th is "iBooks Author:  You work for Apple Now."

These folks aren't left-wing commie pinko free software advocates like me. They're mainstream tech writers in the mainstream tech press who love their Macs, iThingies and Windows boxes.

So I was shocked to read Wayne MacPhail's piece "Has Apple just invented a new kind of long form journalism?" on rabble.ca

News for the rest of us? Huh?

MacPhail mentions all the iPads he sees people using on his daily commute on the GO Train. So what? When many of us were growing up, our moms would say "Just because little Billy jumped off the roof it doesn't mean that you should too." Our moms were very wise indeed!

Just because millions of folks have bought into the i-Hype of the Apple marketing machine, doesn't mean that the locked-up world of proprietary devices running proprietary software is a good thing for our society.

We should not be handing our increasingly digital lives over to tech conglomerates where nobody other than the vendor knows what's going on inside the software and hardware that we use.

MacPhail goes on to actively promote locking content into Apple's iPad devices using their proprietary iBook file format. How is handing total control over digital publishing to the Apple Corporation a good thing for our society?

Open standards and open file formats exist so that every computing device can read everything. It means that people in poor Third World countries can read the same stuff that folks in rich countries can read. The iBook format doesn't break down the digital divide, it builds an even higher wall.

MacPhail even advocates pushing iPads into schools. As if the millions of dollars our school system wastes on Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office licenses wasn't bad enough!

While I am opposed to all proprietary software, the Apple iBooks Author software is proprietary software in the most vile form seen to date. Anyone with a progressive bone in their body should reject it.

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