19 June 2015

mikeash: “I Do Not Agree To Your Terms”

Apple News icon

First, I want everybody to know about the ridiculous stunt Apple is trying to pull here. I’d have been perfectly happy if they had just sent me an e-mail saying they were going to include my feed, and if I didn’t like it I could e-mail to opt out. I’d even be happy if they didn’t even give the option to opt out! After all, having an RSS feed in the first place is an implicit opt-in to that sort of thing. But trying to dictate terms on top of that while telling me that I automatically agree to them unless I opt out is unacceptable, even if the terms themselves are relatively benign. They should stop doing this, and telling people about what they’re doing is the only way I know that might help to make that happen.

Second, I want to declare directly to Apple: I do not agree to your terms. You are, of course, welcome to use my content in any way already permitted by law. I believe that should suffice for your purposes, but if it doesn’t, well, too bad. I have no idea if you’ll ever see this declaration, but that’s just like yours, so I think it’s fair.

Mike Ash

There have been several reports of emails from about the terms and conditions to join their upcoming News app, making Apple’s intentions look rather suspicious. I see bigger problems than requiring to opt-out and sending supposedly binding terms by email:

You agree to let us use, display, store, and reproduce the content in your RSS feeds including placing advertising next to or near your content without compensation to you.

So basically Apple wants to just take other people’s content and earn ad revenue on their work, without paying anything to the authors?! Publishers are offering RSS feeds for consumption, not for other businesses to take advantage for free – many of the Creative Commons licenses explicitly forbid monetization, so this would be a clear breach. Not to mention these terms seem to be in direct conflict with the message on the official Apple sites about revenue sharing within Apple News: Monetization is made simple with iAd, Apple’s advertising platform. Earn 100% of the revenue from ads you sell, and 70% when iAd sells ads for you. Or does this only apply for content in the ‘Apple News Format’?

A similar conflict emerged around the Apple Music app, where apparently Apple won’t pay royalties to independent labels for the three months of free trial. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if anyone needs to carry the cost of a trial period, it’s the company launching the service, right? In both cases Apple comes off as a greedy corporation trying to squeeze out every last cent out of its partners – as if they weren’t making a healthy margin on hardware already! Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but Apple should clarify the situation nonetheless.

Update: Taylor Swift seems to agree:

But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.

Taylor Swift

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