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Epic and the Terms of Apple’s Developer Program License Agreement

Epic’s announcement that Apple is threatening to terminate their membership in the Apple Developer Program prompted me to look at the current terms of the developer program license agreement. The terms are pretty clear that Apple can do this:

11.2 Termination

This Agreement and all rights and licenses granted by Apple hereunder and any services provided hereunder will terminate, effective immediately upon notice from Apple: […]

(f) if You engage, or encourage others to engage, in any misleading, fraudulent, improper, unlawful or dishonest act relating to this Agreement, including, but not limited to, misrepresenting the nature of Your submitted Application (e.g., hiding or trying to hide functionality from Apple’s review, falsifying consumer reviews for Your Application, engaging in payment fraud, etc.).

In a court of law, Apple seems well within its rights to terminate Epic’s membership. In the court of public opinion, Apple comes off looking heavy-handed here, especially as it pertains to Unreal Engine. To be clear, Apple is not banning or even mentioning games that use Unreal Engine; what Epic is saying is that all games that use Unreal Engine will be affected as a byproduct of Epic no longer being able to work on Unreal Engine for Apple’s platforms. It’s further escalation on both sides:

  • Epic: Surprise! We snuck our own payment processing into a Fortnite update.
  • Apple: Fortnite is no longer listed in the App Store and we’re not going to approve updates until Fortnite complies with our rules.
  • Epic: We’re suing and releasing a video to all our users that paints Apple as an oppressive monopolist bully.
  • Apple: We’re revoking Epic’s developer program membership. (Would Apple have done this even without Epic having filed a lawsuit? Not clear.)
  • Epic: Without a membership we’ll be forced to cease development of Unreal Engine for iOS and MacOS.

(Honestly, the most shocking thing about the Apple Developer Program License Agreement is that the PDF is entirely typeset in Arial. Clearly it should be San Francisco, but Helvetica would be acceptable. Arial should be a firing offense.)

Monday, 17 August 2020