[Doctorow-L] Column: Mr Cook, Tear Down That Wall

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Mon Aug 17 19:05:22 EDT 2020

You've probably heard that Fortnite publishers Epic are suing Apple over
the right to sell software to Iphone owners without cutting Apple in for
a 30% vig on every sale. Epic wants a court to order Apple to allow
software vendors to offer direct sales.

Apple apologists insist that Apple should have the right to both lock
its devices so that Apple customers can only get their software through
the App Store, AND that Apple should be able to cream off 30% of every
sale in the store.

There's been some smart commentary on this. In particular, I recommend
Jay Freeman's long thread on whether the App Store is monopolistic (it
most certainly is) and whether that's good for users or software
developers (it most certainly is not).


I've made my own contribution to the debate. In a new article for
Slate's Future Tense, I talk about the role that interoperability could
and should play in safeguarding user rights and blocking monopolistic


True believers in Apple's business model argue that Apple customers
don't even WANT to buy software elsewhere (similar to how they argue
against the Right to Repair by insisting that Apple customers are happy
to be limited to getting repairs from Apple).

This is a frankly bizarre argument. Apple isn't spending millions are
hiring entire buildings full of lawyers to block right to repair or
independent app stores on general principle - the only reason to block
these things is because you think your customers would use them.

As my EFF colleague Mitch Stoltz says, the argument that Apple users
don't want flexibility is like the argument that the Berlin Wall isn't
there to keep East Germans IN, it's there to keep the bourgeoisie out of
the Worker's Paradise.

If the DDR really believed that people were happy to be behind the wall,
they could easily test the proposition: just install a gate that anyone
could pass through and see whether anyone stayed.

Likewise, if Apple's convinced that no one wants independent repair or
third-party app stores with more dev-friendly policies, it can just put
a gate in ITS walled garden and see what its customers do.

The Apple version of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy ("You're not a true
Iphone owner if you object to the company you gave $1000 to for a phone
charging software vendors a 30% commission") was always absurd.

But it would be fascinating to find out how many "true" Iphone users
there are by those lights. If we were to allow owners of Iphones to
treat them as their property, to use without regard to the shareholders
of a $1T corporation, what would they do?

Apple probably won't unilaterally disarm its DRM arsenal. That's why EFF
is suing the US government to overturn the law that makes it a crime to
bypass DRM.


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