If you publish with iBooks Author, does Apple ‘own’ you?


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This week Apple announced a new textbook App called iBooks 2, as well as iBooks Author, a new book publishing app that allows normal people with little to no coding know-how to create impressive ebooks complete with photo galleries, video, 3-D images and other super cool graphic elements.

Nothing too controversial there, right? Wrong. By Thursday afternoon, tech bloggers began to complain about a clause in iBook Author’s End User Licence Agreement that restricts how resulting ebooks can be sold, and by Friday the torrent of anger reached a fever pitch.


Here’s the offending statement as it appears in the iBooks Author ‘About’ box: ‘IMPORTANT NOTE: 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.’

In other words, Apple invites you to use its publishing software to do some really cool stuff that most of us could never dream of doing on our own, all for free. Just know that if you decide to sell what you’ve made, Apple will most likely get a cut of the profits.

Whether this is an unprecedented and gross abuse of power on Apple’s part, or simply the company’s way of making money off its new software, has been a hot topic of debate in the blogosphere.

In a scathing story headlined ‘iBooks Author: You Work For Apple Now,’’s Sascha Segan expressed his outrage over the clause in no uncertain terms.

‘With iBooks Author, Apple just made a hideous play to kill authors’ rights over their work,’ he writes. Adding later, ‘Apple owns the creative process of anyone who uses the tool. If you’re looking to create an iBook, you’ve just given Apple total distribution control over your work. That’s as good as partial ownership.’

But Paul Carr, writing on the blog came to Apple’s defense. Sort of. ‘Apple has released iBooks Author for free with one goal -- to get more books into the iBooks store,’ he writes. ‘By taking a cut from all of the paid-for books produced in that way, they stand to make more than enough money to justify giving away the tools involved.’


He adds that we are of course free to boycott Apple’s new software if we don’t like the terms of its agreement. ‘There are a hundred other ways to produce ebooks, and there are a half dozen other platforms on which to sell them. Pick one,’ he writes. ‘But we won’t. We’ll pick Apple, and we’ll like it. Because this is Apple, and that’s what we do.’


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-- Deborah Netburn