Apple Claims Drawings of Public Figures Are “Obscene, Pornographic or Defamatory”


According to Apple, political caricatures are “obscene, pornographic or defamatory.” This is monumentally stupid:

Back in the late summer movie director/entrepreneur Ray Griggs, for whom I did all that art for his movie “Super Capers“, approached me with an idea for an iPhone app. The concept was a database of all the members of the United States Congress which allowed the user to find the names and contact information of their senators and congressional representative either via zipcode or by using the iPhone’s GPS location services. He wanted the visuals to be more than just a bunch of pictures, and asked me to do caricatures for each senator and representative.

That’s 540 caricature if you are keeping count (including those non-voting members of the house from Puerto Rico, Guam, etc.). FIVE HUNDRED FORTY. Five-four-Oh. Whew.

Ray had showed a lot of people this app, and there was a fair amount of interest in it. In fact, he tells me that he is booked to appear on both the Glenn Beck show and the Mike Huckabee show next week to talk about the app and his upcoming documentary. Both Beck and Huckabee loved the app and that’s what precipitated his appearance on their shows.

Looks like all Ray will have to talk about is how ridiculous Apple’s app approval folks are, since the app was REJECTED yesterday .

Apple’s rejection letter notes that the app contains content that “ridicules public figures.” If you follow the link above, you will see that these drawings are not defamatory nor ridiculing. They are simply caricatures. Big heads, exaggerated features. Do we really think that lawmakers, who deal with talk radio, bloggers and TV talking heads calling them all sorts of heinous things day in and day out, really care about a drawing?

This looks like a private company protecting public officials by refusing to allow drawings of them to be shown on mobile phone devices. Apple is lobbying Congress on a number of issues and has already spent over $1 million. Perhaps, they are treading too lightly to keep from disrupting their legislative activities.

To sum up, the Apple approval process is either being ordered from above to censor apps to advance Apple’s agenda in Washington (somehow this thought makes that 1984 Apple commercial a bit ironic) or it’s run in a similar manner to the work place in the video below:

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  • Apple’s recent decision making process regarding apps they deem political is frustrating. I adore Apple products (especially my iPhone) but I’m also a political activist who promotes technology that adds to a more transparent democracy.

    The stance they’ve begun taking on political apps discourages me from suggesting their products to other likeminded political people. Which…if they look at their customer base they might find is a significant demographic of people buying their products.

  • alex

    Not that i agree with Apple’s rejection (it’s ridiculous) but perhaps the real reason is for it is more under “exploitation of an individual for commercial purposes”.

    Even politicians have a right to protect themselves against unauthorized & uncompensated usage of their personages. First Amendment & free speech liberties, i.e., ‘Right of Publicity’ considerations doesn’t extend to profiting.

    Not too long ago Schwarzenegger sued a bobble-head maker for just that:

    ..and although it would naturally seem that Tom Richmond and his partner would be ultimately responsible for the content and thus any poss. litigation, Apple of course knows that it would be a richer target.

    • This would have made a much more sensible argument than the one presented by Apple: that the pictures are intended to ridicule. Schwarzenegger may be a special case considering he is famous for something other than being a politician and he has his brand as a celebrity to protect. This app also doesn’t seek to make money off of one single lawmaker, but instead presents pictures of all lawmakers along with useful tools to contact them.

      If I’m remembering correctly, Obama asked that the use of image be reduced in merchandise. Or it could have been that people stop selling stuff with the official seal of the White House on it.

      Thanks for your comment.