Jobs Bans Non C Libraries. Insane Restraint of Trade

Last night I wrote about Steve Jobs insane 3.3.1 section in the new iPhone developers license which Jon Gruber discovered here, and I just want to clarify something.

People are writing that this is a ban on Flash and cross-platform tools. It is, but that is not what I am concerned about.

3.3.1 not only bans cross-platform *tools*, it bans *everything* that is written in other languages and are ported to C. This, obviously, includes libraries.

By defining the rule as being about what language something is “originally” written in, we now must be supposedly concerned about the *provenance* of our code, and not just what it does. If a math library, or a physics engine, or a string package, or whatever, was *originally* written in some other language, and ported, then it violates this rule. This concept of what language something is written in is an insidious concept and strikes at the core of product development and of computer science in general. Everything is built on other stuff, the language provenance of which is often unclear. This language is fundamentally unreasonable, and un-enforceable.

Trying to control where something is originally done is attempting to control the thought process that yields a given result. Because if you thought of it in Java, and wrote it in java, and then, whether by hand or by tool, converted it to C, you are now outside the bounds of 3.3.1.

Some may say my interpretation is too pedantic. But the point is that in order for Apple to limit people in the way that they want to, i.e. to prevent the use of a given tool, they are inflicting collateral damage. I do not think there is a way to achieve their goal without such ridiculous restrictions. I have not done my legal homework here, but this seems to be a clear example of restraint of trade, a basic tenet of contract law.

I have no question that this will be tested in court. I don’t think there has ever been a case like this because only Apple could make such a ridiculous attempt to control how developers work. But what is interesting here is that allowing this provision to go to trial may put the entire App Store concept under a legal microscope. Because it seems to me there is a reasonable risk that not only is 3.3.1 restraint of trade, but that the entire “you can only sell apps on iPhones and iPod touches that we approve” thing is found to be restraint of trade. Wouldn’t that be tasty. Adobe, and/or class action lawyers start your engines!

Post Author: Ruby H. Rosenbaum

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