ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Monday, August 4, 2008

Blame it on the Lawyers: NDA for iPhone Application Developers

iPhone enthusiasts may have noticed that many of the applications available in Apple's much-hyped "app store" fall short. Many of the applications are buggy and have stability and crashing issues. Blame it on the lawyers!

Many application developers would tell you the reason is a Non-Disclosure Agreement ("NDA") that Apple required developers to agree to before they could download and use the iPhone software development kit (SDK). SDK is the only sanctioned way to develop applications for the iPhone and iTouch. Apple is treating the contents of the development kit as "confidential information," and the NDA prohibits discussion of any "confidential information." To say the least, the NDA has application developers frustrated and angry.
While the NDA might have made sense when SDK was in its "beta period," most developers would now say that the utility of the NDA has run its course, and is actually doing more harm than good. Developers are accustomed to collaborating in various ways (online forums, blogs, mailing lists), all of which is prohibited by the NDA. It also prevents new developers from learning code from other, more seasoned developers. Likewise, the NDA silences authors and publishers of programming books about SDK. There is even talk that a conference for SDK developers is threatened by the NDA.

The NDA eliminates collaboration, which threatens the quality of the applications developed. It also threatens the reputation of Apple and the social norm of collaboration among developers:

Unfortunately for student Jeffrey Long, his experience learning to develop for the iPhone "has been like no other experience I've had with computers," he wrote. "It’s been a much, much lonelier one." Certainly, this is not the reputation Apple wants among developers for its hot new mobile platform

[Meredith R. Miller]

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