Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Star Wars

Guy English points out that Apple's review process let Star Wars Trench Run onto the App Store despite its use of an "Apple-owned graphic symbol" on the instructions page. I know some of you are expecting me to defend Apple on this one, but I don't think there's any reason to do so. Somewhere or another, it looks like they screwed up, and it was a screwup with especially bad timing. It makes it look like a) LucasArts is getting special privileges, and/or b) the inconsistency of the review process isn't improving, and neither puts them in a very good light.

Of course, I don't know if LucasArts has an "express written trademark agreement" in place with Apple. It's possible. If they do, that would explain the discrepancy and provide justification for allowing Trench Run on the App Store, but my gut says this was just a garden-variety review process screwup. In other words, the reviewer missed it, just like the reviewer of the first edition of Airfoil Speakers Touch. As Heinlein said, don't attribute to villainy that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Assuming there isn't trademark agreement in place between Apple and Lucas, the only correct course of action here is for Apple to either reverse their previous decision on Airfoil, or else reject any future updates to Trench Run unless LucasArts removes the iPhone image you can see at the link above.

I don't think Apple should remove the existing App since they haven't removed earlier apps that have made it through the review process with similar images in place. They did not remove 1.0 of Airfoil Speaker Touch, for example, nor many other apps that got through the review process with an iPod or other Apple-owned graphic image in them. But, if they continue to allow LucasArts to update Trench Run with this image, that will completely undermine any argument they had for keeping Airfoil out of the App Store.

In both cases, an image is composited on top of an Apple-owned graphic image, so either both should be allowed, or neither should be. If Apple has a valid trademark reason to keep out Airfoil Speakers Touch, then they have a valid reason to keep Star Wars: Trench Run out as well. If Trench Run's use is okay, then there's no valid reason (absent an express written agreement between Apple and LucasArts) that similar uses by smaller developers shouldn't also be okay.