To: Timothy D. Cook
CEO, Apple Inc.
Re: Ongoing rejection of Celebrity Smack app
Dear Mr Cook,
I am writing to you as a humble indie developer whose dreams have been fragged by Apple’s continual rejection of my app, Celebrity Smack. I send this message out into the interweb with the hope that somehow it finds its way to you, Mr Cook. This is an open letter because I suspect that I may have a “file” at Apple HQ, similar to those used by the FBI to record the activities of mafia bosses, environmental activists and single mothers; though instead of a manila folder it is probably in a cloud. People whose names are recorded in such files usually have their emails redirected to junk mail and this would explain why your app approval department never responds to my emails and takes 17 days before rejecting my apps. I’m hoping this is all just a big misunderstanding and that you can help me get my app approved; seeing as you are the leader of the free world and all.
My app (did I say it’s called Celebrity Smack?) is about smacking celebrities and though I have tried to be as inoffensive as possible, there is only so much taste you can inject into a game that involves smacking people. I wondered initially, if my app was rejected because some people in your organisation (Apple) do not understand parody. I am not suggesting that you do not understand this most clever of comic tools, but rather some additional training may be in order for your minions. I’m sure you’re very busy so I have Googled a brief description for your staff to study. Feel free to take credit for my research work.
A parody (pron.: /ˈpærədi/; also called spoof, send-up orlampoon), in current use, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of satiric or ironic imitation.
You could substitute Celebrity Smack for parody in the above definition because it pretty much sums up my game. It then occurred to me that your review department rejected my game because you own the patent for parody; but I Googled and found that even though Apple had applied for that patent, the United States Patents and Trademark Office thought the application was a joke and filed it in the trash.
Parody is used in my game to shine a light on the celebrity culture we live in. I don’t do this because I’m a cynical person but because I feel the public record needs balance. You see, celebrities are constantly trying to shape history to record a certain image of themselves by constantly releasing propaganda. Now celebrities are only people and if I lived in an echo chamber where everyone constantly told me how fabulous I was, I too would start to believe my own BS and eventually end up like, well... Beyoncé.
Oh Beyoncé you most crazy of hotties
(actual re-enactment screenshot of Celebrity Smack beta release)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of hers. Beyoncé was actually in the beta release of my game but one day I started the app and discovered that her sprite had murdered all the other sprites while they slept, plastered her picture in every level and changed the game soundtrack to her greatest hits.
Anyway, I digress. Let’s get back to the issue at hand. I can appreciate that this whole fiasco was instigated by some Matlock-esque character in your legal department and so for their benefit I have provided the following legal definition that should explain why my app should have been approved by now.
:a legal doctrine that portions of copyrighted materials may be used without permission of the copyright owner provided the use is fair and reasonable, does not substantially impair the value of the materials, and does not curtail the profits reasonably expected by the owner
Further information on fair use can be found on the Standford University website. I know that Stanford is not as prestigious as Harvard, but it was higher up the search results on Google (once again Google knows best).
Apple legal team
I believe that once your legal department has read up on fair use and parody they will see the error of their ways and approve my app. Something that I have found useful in the past is reading things over and over until I have them committed to memory. That was how I learnt the alphabet so I think it might work for your legal department.
Something that I find confusing is your review department’s insistence on me providing,
“... documentary evidence that you have the rights to use this content to ensure compliance with the iOS Developer Program License Agreement.”
What constitutes evidence of fair use? Permission slips from celebrities acknowledging they get the joke? I’m pretty sure the maker of Celeb Me (an app currently for sale on iTunes) didn’t provide Apple with permission slips from all 320 celebrities used in their game.
While we are on the subject of current iTune apps, I discovered something terrible that you should know about. A quick search of your app store returned DOZENS of apps that appear to blatantly disregard third party copyright by having likenesses of celebrities and even PHOTOGRAPHS! Here is a list of just a few of those maverick games;
- Place My Face (tell me that isn’t Justin Bieber’s Hair!)
- Celeb Me
- Beiber Find (I suggest a sequel – Bieber Lose)
- FaceQuiz Game (this isn’t guess my sister)
- Celebrity Wallpapers (you guessed it, not about their wallpaper)
- Celebrity Dress UP (my favourite)
- Guess Who! Lite (there is a version that features celebs with weight problems called Guess Who! Heavy)
- Joustin Beaver (not as good as my game but still worth supporting if you want to poke Bieber in the eye with a spear. These guys were sued by Justin Bieber and Apple didn’t take down the game; which was the right call cause the Joustin Beaver guys won.)
I can tell by your silence that you are in shock and probably asking yourself “How did those evil geniuses dupe our razor sharp minds in the review department?” I can’t offer any suggestions on this one but I have found another definition that your minions could memorise;
Hypocrisy is the state of promoting or administering virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have and is also guilty of violating.Hypocrisy often involves the deception of others and thus can be considered a kind of lie.[
What evil genius could dupe the Apple review team?
There is another issue that I want to raise and that is the lack of communication from your review department. To me it seems unfair to reject my app because you feel I have infringed the copyright of third parties and not tell me who those parties are supposed to be, or how I have infringed their rights. Sometimes I do the wrong thing at home and my wife gets mad. Worse still, she sometimes doesn’t articulate what she is feeling. I ask her “What’s the matter?” and she replies “Nothing”. Of course I know there IS something wrong but she refuses to tell me and instead ignores me. This isn’t healthy for our relationship and I can’t help but feel that my relationship with Apple is similar. Perhaps we need relationship counselling. I love the TV show In Treatment and feel that perhaps the fictional therapist played by Gabriel Byrne would be suited to us given that our troubles stem from fictional copyright injustices. Gabriel has such lovely eyes and I could listen to that melodic Irish accent all day even though I am a man and most definitely not gay; not that there is anything wrong with that (©Jerry Seinfeld) Would it be asking too much if I include Gabriel Byrne in my app?
It did occur to me that maybe you were offended by my app. Maybe it was too soon to include Steve Jobs. Really Tim, how long should one grieve for their boss (North Korea doesn’t count)? I think you might be putting ole Stevie wonder on a pedestal. Let’s face it, as brilliant as he was, at times he was a world class jerk Forbes, 2011. Still, I’m nothing if not sensitive to the grief of others, so as a goodwill gesture I have put a paper bag over his head in my app so only you and I and all my friends will know it’s him. I have included a copy of paper bag Steve with this letter. Tell me that’s not funny now that you know who it is. If it will help my case I’ll even include Steve Ballmer in diapers! What about Oh-Hyan Kwon of Samsung? Sure, nobody else would get the joke, but you could play my app before patent depositions and feel like you’ve got one over him.
The rejected versions of Steve
Seeing as I am being so accommodating and considering how much Apple’s rejections have inconvenienced me, I feel it only fair that in return you approve my app and also feature it on iTunes. After all, it is an excellent mash-up of Whack-a-mole and Fruit Ninja with boss fights and upgrades thrown in.
I think I should point out that your arch nemesis Larry Page has already approved Celebrity Smack on Google Play and my sources tell me that he plays my app continually on his own Google X Phone. I might be going out on a limb but I bet if Celebrity Smack included Larry Page’s recently deceased BFF he might be a little peeved but he would still approve the app – because he’s a big man like you.
|Tim with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Don't drop it Tim!|
Well that is pretty much all I have to say. From your photo in the Apple press release you look like a thoughtful and reasonable man even though you carry on your shoulders the hopes and dreams of all techno hipsters around the globe. I’m confident that you will give my case your most careful consideration and steer Apple away from censorship and tyranny. Just remember that my future and that of all free thinking creative people is in your hands.
Sent from my iPhone (just kidding, it was a Galaxy Nexus)
Steve was sometimes not very nice. This is an artists impression of how Steve might have reacted to Celebrity Smack. I tried to capture his darkside here but he looks more like Mr Tumnus who, even though he is a back stabbing liar, is not really that mean.
Google Play App Developer Policy
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breath free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
© Phil Lemon 2013