Apple Censors Digital Comic

Apple has banned a digital comic called Murderdrome, from Infurious Comics, from its iTunes Store, to the consternation of the comic's creator and fans.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

August 26, 2008

2 Min Read

Apple has banned a digital comic called Murderdrome, from Infurious Comics, from its iTunes Store, to the consternation of the comic's creator and fans.Comic creator Paul Jason Holden, in a blog post, explains that Apple's SDK for the iPhone and iPod Touch requires that content must not be offensive in "Apple's reasonable" opinion.

But as numerous comments on the Infurious Comics blog point out, there's no yardstick by which content creators can assess the offensiveness or acceptability of their work. Apple appears to be working with a definition of "offensive" that borrows from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's working definition of obscenity: "I know it when I see it."

Compounding the issue is the apparent inconsistency of Apple's censorship. Many comments cite music and videos available through iTunes that are more offensive than Murderdrome.

"The material -- as pointed out by others -- is clearly less contentious than television, movie, and music content offered by I can only assume the best-case scenario is a prejudice against the form itself," a post attributed to John Westgarth says.

But the issue isn't so much whether or not Murderdrome is available -- frankly, I can't say I much care for it. The issue is whether Apple should be involved in censorship without transparency. If Apple must police content -- and there is a plausible rationale for doing so -- let it do so in a consistent way across different media. Let Apple used established ratings systems and provide an appeals process for content creators who believe they've been treated unfairly.

But really, Apple shouldn't turn its devices into gated Disney theme parks, where certain types just aren't welcome. Apple should stick to selling content creation and communication devices. Content creators don't need Apple to be the authoritative arbiter of artistic merit. Leave that job to the market.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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