MAD Artist Lashes Out at Apple for Rejecting iPhone App for Political Caricatures

| News

Apple has (inexplicably) rejected an iPhone app that "ridicules public figures," and the artist who developed the caricatures in question is lashing out at Apple for doing so. The app, Bobble Rep - 111th Congress Edition, is an iPhone app that offers the name and information, including contact information, for every member of the U.S. Congress, included a caricature drawing whose head can be made to bobble with a flick of the finger or shaking the iPhone.

The artist involved is Tom Richmond, a MAD magazine contributor and the artist who behind the imagery of Super Capers. According to a blog post he wrote about the rejection, Mr. Richmond began developing the caricatures after Super Capers director Ray Griggs approached him with the idea to create the above-described database.

"[Ray Griggs] wanted the visuals to be more than just a bunch of pictures, and asked me to do caricatures for each senator and representative," Mr. Richmond wrote. "Of course that's just a novelty, and the real purpose of the app is the database that allows you to find out who your representatives in Washington are and how to contact them."

Bobble Rep entry for Nancy Pelosi
Bobble Rep entry for Nancy Pelosi of California
Bobble Rep entry for John McCain
Bobble Rep entry for John McCain of Arizona

Apple's iPhone app approval team, however, determined that the caricatures were ridiculing public figures, something that the company said violated the developer agreement. According to Mr. Richmond, Apple told him in a rejection letter:

Thank you for submitting Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition to the App Store. We've reviewed Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains content that ridicules public figures and is in violation of Section 3.3.14 from the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement which states:

"Applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple's reasonable judgement may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory."

Caricatures have a long history in America, a history that includes political criticism, comedy and satire, and keepsakes to take home from a trip to an amusement park. Even the the bobble head phenomenon on which this app was based has been big business for sports teams, with athletes and/or teams licensing their image to bobble head toy makers to be used in caricature.

In the case of Bobble Reps, every member of Congress had a caricature, no matter which political party that member belonged to. The members didn't license their images to Bobble Reps, but that's because they are public figures. Public figures lose a certain amount of control over their imagery, and are, for instance, subject to being the object of things such as caricatures.

Mr. Richmond's blog post accuses Apple of treating its customers like idiots, and lashes out at the company for this action.

"Hard to believe that anybody could be this blind," he wrote. "Maybe they just have a monkey doing the approval of their apps, and he throws a dart at a dartboard with 'approved' and 'rejected' targets on it and whatever it hits is the fate of that app."

He added, "That would explain how they could approve an app with a cartoon baby picture and when you shake the phone hard enough the baby dies. Yes, that one got through only to be yanked after some outraged people complained, but no way are a bunch of flame-throwing caricatures going to get through!!!"

His conclusion is that Apple is missing the bigger picture: "The really sad part is that here is an app that might get people interested in who represents them in Washington, especially kids and young adults, and connects people to their senators and representatives via fun and PARTISAN FREE way. Yet Apple has decided it's not appropriate."

Mr. Richmond has much more in his full blog post, including more of the art involved in the app.

Comments

Bryan Chaffin

This is just insane. To call caricatures defamatory, especially caricatures that are so mainstream, so innocuous as these, is just insane.

It boggles my mind that this has happened.

rpaege

Good grief Apple can be heavy handed some times.

Jim

Good for Apple!  I am tired of the ridicule that public figures have to endure.  Like it or not, these folks represent us.  Pictures can be bad enough without the caricatures.

iVoid

Sadly, this is what happens when you let one company control the sole means of app installation on a device.

It’s sad that a great company like Apple is becoming a advocate of censorship.

prl53

Say what you want, but you’re not the one the disgruntled politicians will come after with a law suit. People are sued for a lot less.

Bryan Chaffin

Jim, caricatures are not necessarily ridicule, and I don’t see any ridicule here at all.

For instance, I stil have a (relatively poor) caricature of myself I paid to have done at Six Flags 20 years ago.

prl53: Politicians can’t sue for this sort of thing. They are public figures, as mentioned in the article.

BogartOfElCajon

I would love to buy this app if its up there. Too bad Apple is a b*tch. Apple is becoming more and more of a dictator. And I can’t believe these fanboys are so blinded by it and their just saying, apple is good and apple is great. WAKE UP STUPID! They are manipulating you.

Lee Dronick

I would love to buy this app if its up there.

Why? You can go to a .gov website and get info about Congress members

Apple is becoming more and more of a dictator.

What? How many apps have been pulled? Sure some don’t make sense to some of us, and some have been reinstated, but there hasn’t been all that many problems.

And I can?t believe these fanboys are so blinded by it and their just saying, apple is good and apple is great. WAKE UP STUPID! They are manipulating you.

Now we get to the root of your anger.

rpaege

The issue here is not that Apple is “dictating” (it has a right to set the rules of its own store), or that Apple is practicing “censorship” (the app store isn’t a public entity and Apple’s not government), or that there is a risk that Apple will be sued (it won’t - caricatures of public figures are fair comment). 

The problem here is the pursuit of absolute tolerance.  Such a pursuit inevitably leads to the most rigorous and ludicrous intolerance, and that is what has happened here.

This is extreme intolerant liberalism at its worst. It’s quite shameful really.  Apple should be embarrassed.

jpc

Just wtf do these censors think they are.  Apple had better look over its shoulder, and for that matter, activate the CDMA chip.  Apple has a long history of shooting itself in the feet.  The iPhone OS could easily become an also-ran behind Android.

Lee Dronick

The caricatures of Speaker Pelosi and Senator McCain are pretty benign and they would probably get a kick out of them. However, have we seen all of them, could some of them not be so innocent? Perhaps that is the reason for the rejection or Apple is just taking a close look and may approve the app in the near future.

I would like to see a more specific guidance in this matter from Apple in their developers agreement.

daemon

Apple: We believe in free speech, just not when we’re incharge.

deasys

The artists went ahead with this project while knowing (or while he should have known) that it may have infringed on the developer agreement.

Where’s the beef?

wilf53

This is incredible! I am an editorial cartoonist and perhaps this rejector at Apple isn?t aware of it, but caricatures such as these are actually popular among politicians themselves, at least here in Europe. My own has been bought up by a couple of presidents and prime ministers and lots of other political personalities along with other decision makers and influential people. Some of them ask to buy it themselves (or their secretary:) and others are given caricatures as presents. I am sure that any other caricaturist can tell the same story, also Maestro Richmond?s, which are really good! I have had the chances to do John McCain, but he beats me:)
Come on, Apple - this is a respected artform, also by our “victims”!

Sterling Ambivalence

The artists went ahead with this project while knowing (or while he should have known) that it may have infringed on the developer agreement.

Except, deasys, for the little fact that it doesn’t infringe on any terms of a development agreement (except maybe for a catchall clause stating Apple may reject anything for any reason, or no reason whatsoever).

A simple caricature is in no way defamatory, or obscene. If this wasn’t true, then no newspaper in the world would be able to publish a political cartoon! (And the mythical Apple Tablet, if it was a news-media consumption device, would be DOA simply because Apple would have rejected the content from every single newspaper out there.)

dhp

The artists went ahead with this project while knowing (or while he should have known) that it may have infringed on the developer agreement.

I suppose he was assuming Apple would follow through on the “reasonable judgement” part.


@Harry Flashman: The “you can go to a website” argument would nullify 90% of the apps in the store.

gslusher

A simple caricature is in no way defamatory, or obscene. If this wasn?t true, then no newspaper in the world would be able to publish a political cartoon! (And the mythical Apple Tablet, if it was a news-media consumption device, would be DOA simply because Apple would have rejected the content from every single newspaper out there.)

Not quite. In the case of the tablet, like the iPhone and a Mac, Apple would not be responsible for content viewed on it. However, the App Store is different. Apple’s attorneys (are you an attorney?) may have decided that Apple could be determined to be a “publisher,” which would mean that they WOULD be responsible for content.

FWIW, newspapers and magazines ARE responsible for any editorial cartoons they publish. That’s why they may reject particular cartoons.

“Free Speech? doesn’t apply, as Apple is not a government entity. The artist has every right to draw and disseminate his caricatures, but Apple is under no obligation to publish or distribute them. Suppose they did and, next week, they get an app that has caricatures of the Pope or Jesus or Mohammed? Do you need to be reminded of the backlash when a publication in Denmark published satirical cartoons depicting Mohammed? Legally, they were on firm ground, but they were still threatened with violence. Remember what happened to Theo van Gogh?

time for a reboot

Good for Apple!  I am tired of the ridicule that public figures have to endure.  Like it or not, these folks represent us.

First, the real reason for this app’s rejection is Apple’s coziness with certain political entities.

Second, check out http://www.usdebtclock.org/

Look at the lower right.  We’re already bankrupt by $32 trillion (yes, trillion), and our fine friends in government have no intentions of stopping.  THE VERY LEAST these clowns deserve are some caricatures.

Anyway, maybe this app’s rejection is for the better.  Instead of a pointless outlet, people can now funnel their simmering energies into something useful.  Like being part of the Second Revolution.

daemon

gslusher,

All of us are perfectly aware that in a free economy Apple has the right to choose what software they will sell and deseminate through their entity.

The problem is that Apple has no right to tell a consumer what software they can run on a device they own.

gb540

It?s sad that a great company like Apple is becoming a advocate of censorship.

Let’s say you ran a retail business.  Would it be fair for me to force you to carry any product, under the claim of Constitutional rights?

While I don’t agree with Apple’s decision, I do respect it.  It’s their store, THEY should be free to run it (within the rules of business laws) as they see fit.

alexv

Not that i agree with Apple’s caricature rejection (it’s ridiculous) but perhaps the real reason is for it is more under “exploitation of an individual for commercial purposes”. 

Even politicians have a right to protect themselves against unauthorized & uncompensated usage of their personages. First Amendment & free speech liberties, i.e., ‘Right of Publicity’ considerations doesn’t extend to profiting.

Not too long ago Schwarzenegger sued a bobble-head maker for just that:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/18/national/18arnold.html

..and although it would naturally seem that charicaturist Tom Richmond and his partner would be ultimately responsible for the content and thus any poss. litigation, Apple of course knows that it would be a richer target.

gb540

The problem is that Apple has no right to tell a consumer what software they can run on a device they own.

Interesting point.

What does Apple’s many pages of EULA say about this?  If we agreed to it (the part where we all said “Yadda yadda, whatever!” and hit “Accept” at the agreement prompt) maybe Apple does have a right….

gslusher

The problem is that Apple has no right to tell a consumer what software they can run on a device they own.

Then, you should sue them. Don’t expect to win, however.

By that logic, Verizon has no right to cripple many phones it sells. My el cheapo Samsung phone, according to Samsung, is capable of loading ringtones from a PC, but Verizon disabled that and requires that I buy ringtones from them, at an outrageous price.

Apple doesn’t tell you that you can’t run any particular piece of software on the iPhone. “Jailbroken” phones can run lots of non-approved apps. Apple DOES say that you can’t use THEIR system (App Store, iTunes, etc) to load software that they don’t approve. If you want to load other software, jailbreak your iPhone. Going through the App Store is a “price” you pay for some assurance (not absolute, of course) that you won’t download malware that will crash your phone, as happened to many Treo owners I’ve known. Note that the first “worm” for the iPhone affects ONLY jailbroken phones (and, even among those, only those where the user didn’t change the default password).

gslusher

Let?s say you ran a retail business.  Would it be fair for me to force you to carry any product, under the claim of Constitutional rights?

Good point. Some booksellers refuse to carry certain books or magazines because 1) they don’t like the content or 2) they’re concerned that their customers won’t like the content and the retailer will lose business. #2 is the much more important reason, of course, though, sometimes, #1 is key. Go to a “Christian” bookstore and ask for RIchard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. <sarcasm>Shouldn’t they be required to carry it? After all, isn’t it a matter of “Free Speech”? </sarcasm>

Not that i agree with Apple?s caricature rejection (it?s ridiculous) but perhaps the real reason is for it is more under ?exploitation of an individual for commercial purposes?.

Another good point—forgot about that one.

Lee Dronick

The ?you can go to a website? argument would nullify 90% of the apps in the store.

Right

Sterling Ambivalence

Quoting Tom Richmond:
Your point is taken but the right of publicity does not apply for several reasons. First, Arnold?s suit was against a maker of a product that relied solely on his image for it?s appeal. This is a collection of all members of congress, making the argument that any individual image is the focal point of the product moot. I?d direct you to the case of ETW Corporation v. Jireh Publishing, Inc. (99 F.Supp.2d 829 N.D.Ohio, 2000), the courts found that an artist selling limited edition art prints of Tiger Woods at the Masters did not violate his ROP as the work contained ?significant transformative elements? and did not sell solely on the identity of Woods but was in depicting the Masters golf tournament and the sport of golf in general. That makes it ?fair use?. Secondly Arnold?s suit was more about his fame pre-politics than his fame as a politician. He had a marketable image pre-governorship.

Also it?s worth noting the Arnold suit was settled out of court and the company was allowed to make the doll but had to lose the machine gun the original was holding. Once the references to Arnold?s pre-political persona was removed it became okay.

Sterling Ambivalence

Even politicians have a right to protect themselves against unauthorized & uncompensated usage of their personages. First Amendment & free speech liberties, i.e., ?Right of Publicity? considerations doesn?t extend to profiting.

Wait a second? Are you the same Alex who left the comment at the original thread? Did you see Tom’s response to you (which I just quoted without noticing who he was responding to)?

AlaskaBoy

Maybe ‘time for a reboot’ has got a point.  The App Store could turn into a pissin’ (can I say that) match between the different political groups.  If you let one artist in with questionable caricatures, would you have to allow all of them in?  Look at all the lawsuits Apple would have on their hands.

wilf53

If you let one artist in with questionable caricatures, would you have to allow all of them in?? Look at all the lawsuits Apple would have on their hands.

Ah yes, of course; if you let one artist in, you might feel compelled to let the other. If you let one writer in, you might let the other. If you let one musician in, you might let the other.

I see your point. Completely. Horrible perspectives.

If you let one movie in, you might let the other. If you let one TV show in, you might let the other.

Yes, there would be absolutely no way to judge them one by one. No way, I tell you! We must defend us against this! Apple must! They must establish a censorship board, immediately. The conditions on which apps are accepted must be harder.

Freedom is such an ugly word, don?t you agree?

daemon

Bryan,

This site’s automatic reload is pure lameness. I can understand using it on the front page, but you really don’t need automatic reload on the article pages!

ctopher

who knows more about political caricatures, random TOM mac users or someone who has been drawing and publishing caricatures for many, many years….

(hint - it’s not YOU!)

ctopher

Sorry, I forgot the link where Tom Richmond actually discusses the legality of caricatures. It’s a very good read.

gslusher

Sorry, I forgot the link where Tom Richmond actually discusses the legality of caricatures. It?s a very good read.

DId anyone suggest that the caricatures were illegal? Richmond’s arguments are completely irrelevant. This isn’t a LEGAL question, at all. LEGALLY, Apple has the right to reject any app, for any reason. It is relevant to discuss whether Apple should have rejected or accepted the app, but bringing up “legality” or “free speech” is blowing smoke and not at all helpful.

Freedom is such an ugly word, don?t you agree?

Another totally irrelevant comment. It’s not about “freedom.” NO ONE is restricting Richmond’s write to draw and disseminate the caricatures. He’s welcome to publish them on his web page or print them and hand them out on the street. However, no one can be compelled to publish or distribute them.

I’ll reiterate what I said before: wilf53, send me your address and I’ll see that you get hundreds of bumperstickers & decals from political and religious organizations of every stripe. If you don’t put ALL of them on your car, you must hate freedom!

wilf53

I?ll reiterate what I said before: wilf53, send me your address and I?ll see that you get hundreds of bumperstickers & decals from political and religious organizations of every stripe. If you don?t put ALL of them on your car, you must hate freedom!

Is it an app? Can I download them for free? Do I pay? Or is it downloaded into my postbox without me doing anything?

I think this is what it is about. It is an app. In a store. It contains caricatures of politicians. Made by a well-known, well-reputated cartoonist. Out of the two examples shown, they are well done and also kind to the subjects, I would say.

Of course, it is all up to Apple what they put there, but if their decisions are seen as quite arbitrary, not well founded and downright absurd, that will of course hit back at Apple in the long run. Developers will get tired and exhausted by this kind of Russian roulette, since it is very hard to judge in advance what will upset the rejectors and what not.

So, in a way, you are right; it is not primarily about freedom, but what about good business sense?

If one is arguing that if one caricature is allowed, one are therefore obliged to allow them all, the reasoning behind is not very logic. If the rejectors at Apple can judge one to be decent, they are free to judge another to the contrary. To allow caricatures like those in the examples, does not imply that one therefore simply has to allow caricatures of Muhammed or anything like that.

Another thing is that this rejection is not Apple?s policy, but the judgment by one of their rejectors and it seems to me that some of those should never had such jobs. I think the vast majority of them probably do an excellent job, but it is not good for Apple?s image - and therefore not good for their business - to have too many of these absurdities go through.

And no matter how you twist and turn this, the decision is absurd. Based on absurd principles and the rejector behind it is probably what we in plain Norwegian would call a “paragraph-rider”:) One who clings to the rules, blind to reality.

ctopher

@gslusher - alexv thought there might be a liability issue, that’s what I was referring to. Notice that I never said Apple was violating the law by rejecting the application.

But since you’ve provoked me I would say that Apple is facing more bad press than good on this one so yes, it was a bad idea.

“Freedom’s just another work for nothing left to lose…”

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Ah, the “Al Gore Clause” of the developer contract. Start getting this through your head people… Apple makes unbelievably awesome products. Put that in its plus column. Apple is run by a bunch of control freak douchebags who have no sense of what to control and what to let be. Current examples are the closed iPhone and the Psystar case. These things need to come back to bite Apple in the ass so it can focus on what it’s good at.

alexv

Wait a second? Are you the same Alex who left the comment at the original thread? Did you see Tom?s response to you (which I just quoted without noticing who he was responding to)?

I am—-but Tom Richmond didn’t specifically answer my point as to whether he has any right to profit off of a known individual, celeb or politician without due compensation…

wilf53

Latest: Apple has backed on this one.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,575149,00.html

Guess someone higher up was notified and realised how utterly ridiculous this rejection was…

Sterling Ambivalence

I am?-but Tom Richmond didn?t specifically answer my point as to whether he has any right to profit off of a known individual, celeb or politician without due compensation?

Well, he has the same right to that as Congressional Quarterly does when every year it publishes the Almanac to American Politics which profiles each member of Congress… much like this iPhone app does. And CQ is a private enterprise, much like Richmone and his associate.

And I’m glad Apple gained some common sense and approved the app.

gslusher

Well, he has the same right to that as Congressional Quarterly does when every year it publishes the Almanac to American Politics which profiles each member of Congress? much like this iPhone app does. And CQ is a private enterprise, much like Richmone and his associate.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that CQ has specific authorization to do that. Richmond probably does not.

Sterling Ambivalence

I don?t know for sure, but I suspect that CQ has specific authorization to do that. Richmond probably does not.

No, you don’t need authorization to do this. This is all information that is in the public record. The Washington Post does this, too.

Patrick Martin

As a former iPhone support tech, I am surprised to see such a harsh judgement on an app.  Bad move Apple.  This is a bad sign of things to come…censorship!

Log-in to comment