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Tom Richmond iPhone App rejected

MAD Magazine artist Tom Richmond has been working on an iPhone app with movie director/entrepreneur Ray Griggs that allows users to search a database for contact information of every congressman. Tom did 540 caricatures – one for every representative in union and territories – for the app. Unfortunately, they have learned that Apple has rejected the app based due to “content that ridicules public figures.”

Here’s a sample of the letter Tom received:

Thank you for submitting Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition to the App Store. We’ve reviewed Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains content that ridicules public figures and is in violation of Section 3.3.14 from the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement which states:

“Applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.”

Tom responds on his blog:

This is the most ridiculous thing Iâ??ve ever heard. These caricatures arenâ??t mean or very exaggerated. They are simple, fun cartoon likenesses of the politicians and the purpose of the app is a informational database. There is no editorial commentary involved at all.

This is the very reason that Apple as a company should be taken to task over itâ??s ludicrous sanctimonious attitude. Clearly this app does not â??ridicule public figuresâ? and is violating nothing, but Apple has decided the world must be protected from the insidious subversiveness this would force upon the public and the brutal, heinous ridicule that my cruel, cruel caricatures would subject these politicians to.

Community Comments

#1 Ted Rall
@ 7:10 am

I’m sorry, Tom, that Apple’s execs are so dunder-headed. This reflects ignorance of the law, namely that you can ridicule (not that that was what you were doing) public figures until the cows come home and do so legally.

I’ve run into similar objections, particularly from non-newspaper clients, when pitching political satire. A lot of people, including high-powered lawyers, don’t seem aware of this basic tenet of American law. I wish there were some way to cure their ignorance.

Whether or not your app was any good–and I bet it WAS good–Apple was wrong.

#2 Charles Brubaker
@ 7:17 am

Well, that’s just plain ignorant.

Are you going to appeal?

#3 Tom Heintjes
@ 8:00 am

Apple normally has a keen appreciation for good design. This is NOT one of those times.

#4 Joshua Skurtu
@ 9:07 am

This is why the internet was not designed with gatekeepers. Apple things it needs to protect its customers from the real world. Duh.

Is there an appeals process?

#5 Tom Richmond
@ 9:11 am

Appeal process? Unknown. Thanks for the support.

#6 Daryl Cagle
@ 9:35 am

Tom, you can make a change and resubmit.

Apple might like it more if you changed the title to “Our Beloved, Respected, Distinguished Congress.”

#7 Kelly McNutt
@ 10:03 am

Apple isn’t saying you can’t ridicule public figures, they’re saying you can’t use their platform to do it.

That being said, I think Tom said it best in his blog post questioning how Apple could let the Baby Shaking app through (pulling it AFTER public objection) yet blocking what amounts to an innovative public service app, and blocking it based on the caricatures, which IMO add greatly it its unique appeal.

This isn’t the first instance of Apple’s seemingly random approval process – there are lots of examples out there and go to show how Apple just might not be the underdog spoiler company they tend to portray themselves as.

#8 Kayl Miller
@ 10:23 am

Tom this is why I’m sticking with my PC.

#9 John Read
@ 10:31 am

Is there any way you could sell/syndicate those 540 caricatures to newspapers and/or political publications?

#10 Tom Wood
@ 10:37 am

Some of the tech blogs might also be interested in picking up your story. has run a lot of stories on app store rejections, and they are very sympathetic to developers. Go to and run a search on: apple app store rejection

#11 Les Taylor
@ 12:27 pm

That’s ridiculous … it kind of makes me wonder if it’s not so much about legal issues, but more about some politician having their hand in Apple’s pocket, or vice versa. Regardless that’s a really cool idea for an app.

#12 Stephen Beals
@ 3:11 pm

It was a great idea. “Think Different”, indeed.

ipods and iphones need some serious competition, the same way AOL and Blockbuster needed it back in the day.

#13 Ted Rall
@ 6:05 pm

Since I’m not in prison, Les, I doubt politicians are that worried about being lampooned in graphic form. This is about stupid in-house lawyers, not censorship.

@ 9:03 pm

I think the Political and Editorial Cartoonists out there should band together with an onslaught of cartoons about the ineptitude of Apple’s policy on this matter. Political Correctness is running amok and it’s time someone or some group said enough is enough! Cartoonists have a big voice and no matter which side of the politcal isle you fall on, we all ought to be able to come together on this one. :O)

#15 Tom Richmond
@ 7:58 am

This story went viral yesterday and got picked up by CNN/Fortune, tons of Apple press including Macworld and TUAW and many others…. and of course The Daily Cartoonist.

The folks at Cupertino all know about it, that’s for sure.

#16 Gus Snarp
@ 11:01 am

I’m convinced that the app store policy is going to bite apple in the rear before long. The lack of consistency and the very decision to require app approval are opening Apple up to lawsuits. At some point a developer will sue Apple over their app being blocked when another similar app was allowed. Even more likely: an app will slip through whose approval opens Apple up to liability for any lawsuit related to the app.

Plus, the whole thing shows how different Apple’s actual behavior is from what it’s partisans want to believe it’s ideology is.

#17 Ken Houghton
@ 11:13 am

It’s a good thing the WSJ isn’t available on an iPhone.

@ 2:00 pm

Verizon has the new “Droid” phones and they offer Apps. Why not try them?

#19 Jonathan L...
@ 6:49 pm

You might consider submitting the app as a text only, then providing through Flickr or similar site the graphic content which could be loaded into the iPhone photo library with searchable tags….


#20 Gary Emmerson
@ 12:04 pm

Tom, I would very much like to have this app on my Droid. I believe the Android operating system is much better especially since it is an open platform. Many iPhone owners (except diehard fanboys) are switching to the new Droid. This app could further define the difference in two products.

This could be another idon’t ad against the iPhone:

idon’t allow freedom of speech
idon’t allow differing points of view that would offend our fanboys

But then what do I know. I get my news from Fox.

#21 Joe Corrao
@ 9:01 pm

haha…I had a halloween costume maker rejected cause of an Obama costume…man, too much I feel your pain!

#22 J.P. Manzanares
@ 1:46 pm

that sucks screw you apple!
i will burn my ipod now and never buy another one it’s zune for me

#23 Rich Diesslin
@ 1:56 pm

Update all, apple did accept it, (relented under pressure I guess) so save your matches for another cause. You can see more on it at Tom’s Blog.

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