Apple Bans 3rd Party EFF RSS App from App Store

We all know Apple’s App Store policies are a bit willy-nilly, inconsistent, and completely unreliable. This issue has been going on for a while now, and it doesn’t see like anything has changed. The latest interesting App Store rejection is especially interesting, as it involves Apple rejecting an application related to one of its detractors: the EFF.

In order to understand this story, I first need to give you some background on a certain internet meme. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – we hate memes. I do too, but I need to explain this one anyway, as it’s crucial to the story, and I don’t want anyone to misunderstand what this is all about.

The film “Der Untergang” (“Downfall” for the linguistically challenged) is a German/Austrian film about the final moments of Hitler’s life in the bunker and the deteriorating city of Berlin on top of him. The film evoked many strong emotions, and some people in and outside of Germany feared that giving Hitler a “3D” personality – instead of always simply regarding him and his henchmen as 2D monsters – would aid neo-Nazi movements around the world. As it turned out, this wasn’t going to happen, as Hitler in his last days was decidedly not someone to look up to, even if you were a die-hard neo-nazi.

The film itself turned out to be really good. In fact, I personally find it my best film of all time. It made me sick, sad, angry, and uncomfortable all at the same time, and the acting of the cast was very close to perfection. It also helped that it was a German/Austrian-made film, with the proper language, and without the usual eagle-chocking sauce of patriotism many Hollywood film makers drape over their WWII films.

However, the biggest accomplishment of this film is without a doubt Bruno Ganz’ depiction of Hitler. Again without a doubt I can say that this is the best acting performance in a film of all time. The accent, the mannerisms, the rhythm of speech, the posture – it’s perfection. The fact that Bruno Ganz did not get an Oscar for his performance is further proof that the Academy Awards are not to be taken seriously, something I already knew the moment American History X didn’t win an Oscar.

Anyway, one of the defining scenes in the film is where Hitler is confronted with the fact that the war is lost, that Das 3. Reich has fallen apart. At this point, Hitler “deafens himself to reality, eloquently savages everyone who cost him his dreams, vows revenge and finally resigns himself to private grief”, as the New York Times put it so fittingly. The internet has taken on this scene, and has created hundreds of spoofs by placing deliberately incorrect subtitles in the scene, about anything from XBox machines to Malaysian politics. One of those spoof videos is amidst of the recent App Store rejection. It’s this one, and it’s about movie studios and DMCA take-down notices; Linux and Stallman also make an appearance:

How would a video like this cause an application to be barred from entry into the App Store? Well, someone made an application which monitors the RSS feed of the EFF’s web page and displays its content. And here it goes wrong: a blog post on the EFF’s page displays the above video, and the App Store reviewer of the day saw Hitler, decided it was objectionable, and turned the application down.

Of course, this is nothing short of idiotic. Using the standard, built-in YouTube application on the iPhone, you can browse to the exact same video and play it – and with it all the other gazillion similar spoof videos. Also, any RSS application can point to the EFF feed, and let’s not forget Safari, which you can use to visit pages that are much, much more “objectionable”.

This story gains an extra dimension of clumsiness on Apple’s end because we’re talking about the EFF here. The EFF and Apple are in a tussle over the DMCA; the EFF is advocating a DMCA exception that would allow the jailbreaking of iPhones, where Apple is obviously against it. This recent rejection by Apple further strengthens the EFF’s argument, which is probably not what Apple had intended.

In any case, it seems like Jon Gruber’s hilarious “Excerpts From the Diary of an App Store Reviewer” is closer to reality than any of us could have imagined.


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