Apple’s iBooks Author EULA: What’s the Big Deal?

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I've been following the heated discussion around the license agreement for Apple's new iBooks Author tool that lets budding publishers create their own iBooks for Apple iBookstore. Apple basically says that if you create an eBook for the iBookstore with the app, you can't take the iBook file you created with the tool (or the PDF file, for that matter) and sell it somewhere else. Given that the iBook file you export from the iBooks Author is DRM free, this, in practice, means you can't sell the file on your own site, for example.

I can see why some people wouldn't like that, but at the end of the day, it's not a big deal either (especially given that you can give away free versions of you book without DRM and outside of Apple's channels).

What Does the EULA Really Say?

Apple's EULA for the app says the following:

B. Distribution of your Work. As a condition of this License and provided you are in compliance with its terms, your Work may be distributed as follows:

(i) if your Work is provided for free (at no charge), you may distribute the Work by any available means;

(ii) if your Work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or service), you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions: (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution.

At first blush, this sounds similar to Microsoft saying that the novel you wrote in Word can only be sold in the Microsoft Store. The reality is different, though. Apple doesn't claim any ownership of the content you put into iBooks Author. The text remains yours (though the good folks at Gizmodo seem to think differently).

Your Content is Yours – Sell it Wherever You Want To

Apple clearly defines 'work' as "any book or other work you generate using this software." It's the book Apple cares about – the final product the program generates, not the content you put into it.

iBooks Author is, in the end, just a tool for laying out your content so it looks nice on the iPad. Nobody is stopping any author or publisher from using another tool to sell the same content on another platform.

Apple is making a free piece of software available that allows you to create books for the iBookstore. Your content remains yours, even after you start selling the book in the iBookstore. So what's the big deal again?

Frederic Lardinois founded SiliconFilter in 2011. Before starting this site, he wrote about 1,500 articles for ReadWriteWeb. His areas of interest are consumer web and mobile apps, as well as Internet-connected devices like cars, smart sensors and toasters. You can reach him at [email protected]

30 COMMENTS

  1. Don’t get too excited about all the Apple iBooks self publishing news. As soon as you publish you create and publish your book through Apple’s “iBooks Author” you give up your rights to publish that book through any of the wide variety of popular eBook publishers. I don’t work for this company but my personal suggestion would be to use Smashwords.com. If anyone has tried going through the process of getting an ebook published and up for sale on more then one site then you know that each site has a different system and different requirements that make the entire process long and frustrating for each of them. Smashwords.com helps you easily get your ebook properly formatted and submitted to a ton of the major ebook retailers including: Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store to name a few. They also sell your ebooks on their own online store and make your ebook available for sale in just about every format that exists and to top it off they do all of that for free!

  2. Don’t get too excited about all the Apple iBooks self publishing news. As soon as you publish you create and publish your book through Apple’s “iBooks Author” you give up your rights to publish that book through any of the wide variety of popular eBook publishers. I don’t work for this company but my personal suggestion would be to use Smashwords.com. If anyone has tried going through the process of getting an ebook published and up for sale on more then one site then you know that each site has a different system and different requirements that make the entire process long and frustrating for each of them. Smashwords.com helps you easily get your ebook properly formatted and submitted to a ton of the major ebook retailers including: Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store to name a few. They also sell your ebooks on their own online store and make your ebook available for sale in just about every format that exists and to top it off they do all of that for free!

  3. Finally somebody putting the things into the right perspective!

    I can’t believe how many jump on the “I hate Apple” bandwaggon without reading the EULAS correctly.

  4. I’d like to think that you’re right, and I’d have less of a problem with it if you are. However, the wording of the EULA in question is too vague — you’re making an assumption about what Apple means by the word “book” which may or may not, in fact, be what Apple actually means. Based on what is actually contained in the EULA, and putting aside all assumptions, how do you know that Apple doen’t care about the content? I, for one, wouldn’t be willing to risk content that I worked long and hard on writing until the issue is clarified directly by Apple.

  5. I’d like to think that you’re right, and I’d have less of a problem with it if you are. However, the wording of the EULA in question is too vague — you’re making an assumption about what Apple means by the word “book” which may or may not, in fact, be what Apple actually means. Based on what is actually contained in the EULA, and putting aside all assumptions, how do you know that Apple doesn’t care about the content? I, for one, wouldn’t be willing to risk content that I worked long and hard on writing until the issue is clarified directly by Apple.

  6. First, I’m a fanboy (although my enthusiasm for Cupertino has taken several hits lately). That said, even I have a problem with this EULA. Not that there was much danger of my publishing in the iBookstore anyway, I would not likely sell anything I wrote there. I use iBooks mostly for PDFs because I don’t like the app, Apple’s attitude about it, or the iBookstore in general. This EULA has become typical of Apple; they want you to use there products, but they also want to tell what how you can use that same product. Consumer lockin feels a bit too much like the old company stores.

  7. Considering they choose whether or not you’re allowed to charge anything, I’d consider that some sort of ‘ownership’. If Apple doesn’t like the content, they say, “Sorry you cannot distribute it for money”, Sure you can give it away, but that defeats the purpose for a lot of authors. Specifically referring to section: “(ii) if your Work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or
    service), you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions: (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution.”

  8. @RichardCrowest Looking for a better job? If so you can be your own boss and work from home making 6k a month thecashjournalpage .com

  9. @medejean mil gracias. En estas condiciones iBooks es una excelente noticia que abre posibilidades de creación de material en P50 cc @czea

    • @capitanplaneta8 @czea así es, de hecho este fin de semana @carlosarbelaez y yo estamos en la tarea de analizar las #App #iBooks y #iTunesU

      • @medejean @czea @carlosarbelaez podríamos armar un taller para diseño de plantillas y contenidos en conjunto P50, MediaLab y Fondo Editorial

        • @capitanplaneta8 @carlosarbelaez excelente idea e igualmente debería integrarse la herramienta en el currículo de comunicación. #iBooks

        • @medejean @carlosarbelaez De acuerdo, estaba pensando que el taller podría hacerse con estudiantes de diseño y diagramación justamente

  10. @MarkBurgess9 “if your Work is provided for a fee… you may only distribute the Work through Apple” still sounds BAD to me

  11. Clearly, Frederic, you are not a lawyer (unless you are very incompetent). Consult an IP lawyer first about the meaning of “the work.” What you are doing now is like a 10-year old giving sex-ed lessons. The work is a specific legal term, meaning the whole damn thing you put together and all the time and money and hope to go with it. I’ve been down the road with this, including consulting three lawyers who said there was nothing there only to have the other party keep gong after me until I had to go for an IP attorney for thousands of dollars, just to save my ass and that was a settlement with a no-talk clause. For a multiple of thousands of dollars more I could have thrown their ass backward, said my good lawyer, but there was no point. I had no money, and all over a $400 job. Don’t be giving readers such horrid and potentially damaging advice. “The Works” is a special legal term. They did not write that into the EULA casually.

  12. @MikeStrong @arcane93 … obviously you are missing two important parts of the EULA:

    Right in the beginning it says
    “IMPORTANT NOTE: If you charge a fee for any book or other work you generate using this software (a “Work”), you may only sell or distribute such Work through Apple (e.g., through the iBookstore) and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple.”

    The important part here is …you generate using this software (a “Work”) … from there the EULA always refers to “Work” in a capital letter. This already makes clear that Apple is talking about the product built with the software and not the content itself.

    It may be a unusual use of the term but it’s defined clearly.

    And if you are not convinced just look at section 2D:
    “Title and intellectual property rights in and to any content displayed by or accessed through the Apple Software belongs to the respective content owner.”

    Also this is aimed to people using the books it again clarifies that the content still belongs to the content owner and not to Apple.

    • @shadowbj21 And obviously you are reading what you want to read, rather than what it actually says. First, the capitalization is meaningless. It’s common in legal contracts and license agreements, when you’re using a term to refer to a specific object rather than a general concept (i.e., the specific “Work” generated by the software for the user who is accepting the license, rather than a “work” as a general term for an e-book), to capitalize that term. The capitalization of the term in and of itself does not make anything at all clear regarding what is or is not covered by the term. Please cite the specific point where it is “defined clearly” what is and is not covered by the term “Work” — oh, you can’t? That’s because it’s not defined clearly anywhere in there.

      Secondly, of course Apple is not claiming intellectual property rights. That’s an entirely different set of issues than sales and distribution rights. Yes, of course you still own the content — Apple attempting to take the ownership of the content away from you through a software license agreement would open them up to a whole mess of public outcry and legal challenges. What they are claiming here, and what you are giving them through agreeing to this license agreement, is an exclusive right to distribute the work (or “Work”) for money. It’s like signing a contract with any other publisher — you may (depending upon the agreement, of course) still own the copyright to the work itself, but you are giving that publisher exclusive rights to print and distribute the work. Even if you still own it, you can’t sign a publishing contract with Penguin and then also sign another one with Random House.

      I’m not saying that it’s not possible that you’re correct about what Apple means by it — I really hope that you are. But again, you’re reading things into it that aren’t there, and making assumptions based upon what you want it to mean rather than what it says.

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