Steve Jobs, protecting us from the naughty

June 17, 2010

a few days ago, Apple requested that an iPad app for a graphic novel adaptation of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” be cleaned up because it contained images of nudity (via GalleyCat).

Robert Berry, the illustrator of “Ulysses Seen,” said that an image of a woman with exposed breasts was one of the offending panels in the comic version of the book. He offered to pixelate the image or cover it up with a fig leaf, suggestions that were rejected by Apple.

thankfully, Apple reversed its decision and is allowing the app to be published as is.  said Chad Rutkowski, the business manager for Throwaway Horse, the publisher of the comic:

They basically apologized.  They said they gave it a second look and realized that it wasn’t obscene or anything like that. They’re clearly drawing a distinction now and they understand what we’re doing.

this is not the first time that Apple has made it its business to save the world from the “offensive.”  a couple of classics in the iPad bookstore were bowlderized including “Moby Dick” in which “sperm whale” became “s***m whale” and Joseph Conrad’s “The Nigger of the Narcissus” becomes “The N****r of the Narcissus.”

a Gawker post from this spring does a nice job of gathering some of the cartoons initially banned by Apple including one from Pulitzer Prize winning Mark Fiore (deemed unacceptable because it ridiculed public figures).  two of the three decisions were eventually overturned by Apple.

further evidence of Apple’s policy comes from Steve Jobs himself who responded to a customer questioning Apple’s role as the “moral police” with

We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.

clearly, this guiding philosophy also applies to the iPad.  nowhere does Jobs define “porn.”

are publishers ok with this?  is it really worth aligning themselves with Apple at all costs in order to diminish the Amazon stranglehold?  and what about libraries?  if we’re able to support ebook versions that are compliant with Apple products, will we in turn be supporting this censorship (guilty by association)?  as a library user, it’s my responsibility to choose what is and isn’t appropriate and i appreciate that freedom.

A variety of viewpoints are represented in the library collection and the library upholds the right of the individual to obtain information, though the content may be controversial, unorthodox, or unacceptable to others.

can Apple users not be allotted the same responsibility?

in a PW editorial mostly focused on Apple’s DRM, Cory Doctorow asks an important question that is relevant here, “Can You Survive a Benevolent Dictatorship?”  definitely many things to think about.

posting by marin


2 Responses to “Steve Jobs, protecting us from the naughty”

  1. Joe Says:

    A pat on the back for Marin for standing up to the mighty Steve Jobs … but don’t be surprised if you can no longer reach her on her iPhone.

  2. myounker Says:

    free in January!

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