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

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.