The Apple Controversy

Apps & AppleApple has become the center of controversy because of its control of the “apps” that are accepted for use on its latest product, the iPad, which is similar to the iPhone by Apple. App is an abbreviation for “application program,” as opposed to a systems program which operates the device itself.

Apple has created a string of rejected apps, which seems to continue to grow. It rejected Google phone services for its iPhone, a sign of the growing rivalry between the two powerful companies.

Then there is the case of self-syndicated editorial cartoonist Mark Fiore, whose iPhone app was rejected. But after Fiore won a Pulitzer Prize, Apple suddenly discovered that the company had made a mistake when it rejected the app, and it has now become available.

Apple has rejected an app for political cartoons about Tiger Woods even though it had accepted one that featured cartoons about Obama from the same syndicated cartoonist. The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists believes Apple is exercising too much control over free speech with its policy on political cartoons.

In another incident in the news involving Apple, Jason Chen, blogger for Gawker.com, purchased a “found” prototype iPhone and displayed the next-generation iPhone on the net, drawing millions of page views. Police later raided Jason Chen’s home, under the belief that the iPhone was “stolen property.”

The larger issue has become whether Chen should be protected by journalism shield laws as a blogger journalist, as well as whether the purchased phone is stolen property, thus exempting him from protection by shield laws. New media development has moved so fast that the law cannot keep up. Publishers are closely watching the Chen case as the outcome may determine when a blogger is legally considered a journalist.   

Michael Wolff, a Vanity Fair columnist and Newser.com blogger announced his Newser app has been rejected from the App Store. He’s convinced that Apple doesn’t want an app carrying his column in its store because of the nasty things he writes about Steve Job, such as saying that he’s “odd,” “flaky,” “creepy,” “rude,” “slightly neurotic,” “anal retentive,” and worse. Apple says his column does not have broad appeal.

It would seem that all Wolff needs to do is win a Pulitzer.

A broader question to consider is how much editorial control of columnists is exercised by by corporate interests. Should a columnist flaunt words in the face of the entity being asked to publish your work? When can you claim rights under free speech or freedom of the press? When you write online or blog, do you have any protection under the laws that protect traditional journalists? These are troubling questions for any writer in these times of rapid technical innovation. 

By Sheila Moss

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