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Friday, February 03, 2012, 12:07 pm PT (03:07 pm ET)

Apple clarifies iBooks Author license, does not claim rights to content

Apple attempted to head off a minor controversy surrounding iBooks Author by clarifying that it does not claim ownership of the content authors write, restricting only sales of its .ibooks format.

Apple's iBooks Author lets publishers quickly lay out existing text and add dynamic elements to produce interactive books. The application was created principally to address the textbook market, but can be used for any type of interactive book, creating .ibooks files that can be used on the iPad with Apple's iBooks 2 app.

iBooks Author can also be used to generate standard PDF documents, but those don't include live interactive elements, a feature that requires the browser-like HTML, CSS and JavaScript rendering of iBooks 2.

Textbooks


We don't own your content, we own our format

In the initial release, Apple's iBooks Author license stated:

"(i)if your Work is provided for free (at no charge), you may distribute the Work by any available means;
(ii) if your Work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or service), you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions: (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution."


However some jumped to the conclusion that Apple was attempting to claim ownership of publisher's content, and stipulating that they could not sell their content on competing stores or for alternative ebook reader systems.

Apple has clarified the language in the license to indicate that its claims relate to the .ibooks format, which adds supporting technology to the author's content to enable interactive playback of various "widget" elements. The license now reads:

"If you want to charge a fee for a work that includes files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author, you may only sell or distribute such work through Apple, and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple. This restriction does not apply to the content of such works when distributed in a form that does not include files in the .ibooks format."

Unchanged in the license is the idea that authors who produce iBooks can distribute them for free any way they choose, which could include posting them on a website or distributing them via file sharing networks. Apple does not allow commercial distribution of its works in a way that would benefit third party stores at the expense of Apple, which designed the software and offers it for free.