App Store Tyranny: how 100+ hours of coding went to waste

I know what you’re thinking “oh, another app was rejected. Stupid developers always complaining” well, you’re kinda right. In May I started working on an iOS (universal, so it works on iPhone and iPad) app for watching movie trailers and viewing corresponding information about that movie such as the director, cast, synopsis, poster, release date, and an array of sharing options (email,SMS, Facebook and Twitter). I spent almost allofJune working on it, almost every day. 100 hours of work, at the least went into this. I was beyond proud of it. Probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. I’ve never played with an app that I’ve made for as long as this one.

After working out the kinks and writing up a description as well as getting an icon for it, I submitted it to Apple. After a few days of refreshing iTunes Connect nonstop, I got the “ Submission Feedback” email, which is never good. In short, it means your app was rejected. Usually, the reviewer gives feedback on how to improve it so it can get accepted and you can get your app on the App Store. I’ll let the email speak for itself:

Thank you for submitting your application to the App Store. Unfortunately, your application, Trailers ~ movie previews on the go, cannot be added to the App Store because it violates section 3.3.10 of the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement:

“Applications may not perform any functions or link to any content or use any robot, spider, site search or other retrieval application or device to scrape, retrieve or index services provided by Apple or its licensors, or to collect, disseminate or use information about users for any unauthorized purpose. “

There is no public API the iTunes Movie Trailers to be used in the manner demonstrated by your application.

Best Regards,
App Review Team

So they pretty much said screw you, but in a nicer (and more confusing) way. All that work, gone, wasted. They’re basically saying to throw the project in the trash and let it rot, because it will never be on their store.

Why isn’t there a pre-development app approval? To see if you’re app follows the Developer Program License Agreement before you start working on your app? Because if I had known this prior, there would be no way I would have spent the time I did working on this.

After I received the rejection email, I rushed back to my house to talk to a friend at Apple who’s close with the App Review Team to see what he can do. He started chatting with his former colleague, who’s now one of the managers of the App Review Team. Later that night, the app went back into review. I couldn’t believe it, I truly thought it was going to get accepted this time around. But surely, when I got home today I had a message on my voicemail from Steve at Apple (no, not that Steve) about my response.

In my response, I talked about how there are dozens (maybe even hundreds) of applications that scrape various feeds with content provided by Apple, such as featured applications or top 10 songs on iTunes. I called him about an hour ago to talk about my response. He told me that scraping iTunes feeds are strictly against the developer agreement. But the problem is, the feed that I use to obtain trailer information is not a part of iTunes. It’s from apple.com/trailers. It’s basically a RSS feed, available to anyone who knows how to type in a URL. So I asked him why it is against the rules to use, even though it’s publicly available. His response? You can’t scrape iTunes feeds. I told him that it’s not an iTunes feed, and even if it was, I have over a dozen apps that scrape iTunes feeds in my app library. So he started talking about the bots that search apps to see if they use any private APIs, break any rules, blah blah blah, you get the point. Then he asked me to email him a list of apps that I have (that other developers made, not my apps) that scrape iTunes so that they can “take action”. In this case, it means put them back through the bots, and then remove them from the App Store. And some of these apps were pretty popular, some reaching the top 10, or even being featured. I obviously don’t want to tell on other developers and have their work wasted too (well, for them, not wasted. At least they got on the App Store and made it past review)

So at this point, I’m getting pretty pissed at him. I then told him about how my friend at Apple (who I’m not going to name) contacted his friend (who’s the manager of the App Review Team) and it went back into review. He got confused and went to check on it, and he thought of it as an error and rejected it because to him, it was done for. At that point, I was going to hop on the first flight to SFO, drive down to Cupertino, and beat this guy. I mean, seriously. Here I am, happy that I used my connections to get it back in review, and you reject it because you think it was an error that it went back into review.

Then we get to the argument on legal technicalities. See, Apple has specific agreements with movie studios on details of how their movie trailers and corresponding metadata will be used. For example, it’s used on apple.com/trailers, as well as the trailer site (i.e: the Despicable Me site) and the trailer on iTunes (for downloading). The point Apple makes to me (both the man who called and other representatives I’ve spoken with) is that I cannot stream the trailers, as it is the movie studios content. Now this, this is absurd. First and foremost, you can download the trailers via the site, and on iTunes. So what’s the difference between downloading the trailer on your Mac, then syncing it to your iDevice? Nothing. There is none, other than my way is a hell-of-a-lot easier. Second, what are the faults of me using the trailers? Spoiler: there are none, but [Apple] Legal wants to make it seem like the world will come to an end if I use them. After all, it’s free advertising for the studios. What’s next, websites start asking Apple to block them from being viewed on the iPad because they can see copyrighted content? It’s insane. All of the information is public. Anyone who knows how to use Google can find it. I’ve spend the better part of the past week dealing with this craziness. All I did was build an easier way for the public to do something that is quite taxing on their time.

So, this isn’t going to turn out as a fairytale story and have my app put on the App Store (unless I get a lot of press coverage and Jobs/Schiller/Forstall see this *crosses fingers*) and my work (did I mention I spent countless days working on this, many of them staying up all night working) has vanished into thin-air. 100+ hours, gone. Gruber, you listening?

UPDATED: Seriously everyone? You’re calling me a dumbass, an idiot, a prick? Screw all of you. Internet, you have no idea how much work and dedication I put into this. I really loved it. Anyone who owns an Apple TV or uses Front Row on their Mac knows you can spend hours watching movie trailers, which is exactly why I made this. I was laying in bed, watching movie trailers (pretty pathetic, I know) and I wanted to be able to do this on my iPhone/iPad. I’ve been bombarded with comments over the past day about how I should have emailed Apple before developing it to see if they would accept it (which you absolutely cannot do), and other idiotic questions. If you’ve never had to deal with Apple (in this way) you would know what it’s like. And if you’re response is that it’s the studios content, there are dozens, maybe hundreds of other places on the internet that you can find the same content. And studios, since when is free advertising bad?