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5/22/2009
10:49 AM
Michael Hickins
Michael Hickins
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Apple: World's First Victorian Tech Company

Either Apple has completely lost hold of its senses or it's trying to turn back the clock to Victorian-era America, a time when we led the world in official prudishness.

Either Apple has completely lost hold of its senses or it's trying to turn back the clock to Victorian-era America, a time when we led the world in official prudishness.Apple certainly hasn't gained anything from its humiliating app-off with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who appropriately nailed the digital overlord for putting prissiness over common sense -- not to mention the artistic freedom it should be busy promoting rather than burying.

In a vivid demonstration that absurdity knows no bounds, Apple has now banned an e-book reader app, Eucalyptus, from its App Store because readers can download the Kama Sutra.

The absurdity of the action is aptly summarized by Wired:

The reader app doesn't come with any content. Similar to what the iTunes Store does with music, Eucalyptus enables users to find and download the books they wish to read. The app pulls e-books from Project Gutenberg, a well known web site that hosts public domain books.

Forget for a moment the absurdity of blaming a vessel for the liquid it might contain. Apple is also nuts -- and I can say that with some degree of legal authority.

Anthony Comstock, a Victorian-era zealous anti-pornography activist who lobbied successfully for passage of the Comstock Law, used his position as Postmaster General to ban works by George Bernard Shaw and went so far as to try to actually ban nude store mannequins from department store windows. A local judge dismissed the charges, saying, "Mr. Comstock, I think you're nuts."

I realize that Apple employees may not have time to read much literature, but they might be interested in the preface to James Joyce's Ulysses, which reproduces U.S. District Judge John Woolsley's 1933 decision to allow Ulysses into the United States, despite the government's vehement argument that the work was obscene:

The words which are criticized as dirty are old Saxon words known to almost all men and, I venture, to many women, and are such words as would be naturally and habitually used, I believe, by the types of folk whose life, physical and mental, Joyce is seeking to describe... Whether or not one enjoys such a technique as Joyce uses is a matter of taste on which disagreement or argument is futile, but to subject that technique to the standards of some other technique seems to me to be little short of absurd.

Beyond absurdity, I wonder if Apple is aware that Amazon's Kindle e-reader app can also download works with dirty words and graphic sex scenes. Is Apple going to get in Amazon's face about the Kindle app too?

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