Apple Clarifies iBooks Author EULA, Excludes Claim on Content

Apple changed the wording on the iBooks Author end user license agreement (EULA), clarifying the company’s restrictions on what can be done with content created with the software. When first announced, the EULA included language that could be interpreted as Apple trying to restrict what could be done with content created with the software, but the clarification specifies that Apple is restricting what can be done with the company’s proprietary .ibooks files.

iBooks Author, Apple, and Money

iBooks Author is Apple’s new ebook authoring software that was announced on January 19th. Free software, iBooks Author allows people to create books (with an initial focus on textbooks) for Apple’s new iBooks 2, which was announced at the same time.

iBooks 2 is based on the ePub 3 format, but Apple used the classic embrace-and-extend tactic to add proprietary features that can be used to make textbooks far more interactive on tablets than previous book formats. The proprietary nature of those changes allowed Apple to limit those new features to the company’s own iPad media tablet, which could help the company sell more of the devices.

It was the EULA that raised people’s ire, however, as a line marked as an “important note” read:

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.

Many were critical of this restriction and there was much discussion and argument about whether Apple was trying to restrict output from the author or going so far as to restrict the content itself. If the latter, people who used iBooks Author to create a book could be in violation of the EULA if they then took that content to another authoring tool for output to other devices or media formats.

Apple was heavily criticized for its obsessive attempt at control, and many people feared the company was getting too big for its proverbial britches.

Whether or not it was simply poor wording or the criticisms made Apple reverse course, the reality is that the change in version 1.0.1 of the EULA released on Thursday resolves any confusion over the restrictions. The new wording for the “important note” is (with the important bit bolded for your convenience):

If you want to charge a fee for a work that includes files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author, you may only sell or distribute such work through Apple, and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple. This restriction does not apply to the content of such works when distributed in a form that does not include files in the .ibooks format.

As noted above, this seems to remove any confusion and makes it clear that Apple is only concerned about .ibooks files. Be that as it may, this is one bit of controversy that be put aside, which should allow folks more time to get upset about Apple’s embrace-and-extend tactics on ePub 3.