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Apple hints App Store rules may loosen with iPhone OS 3.0

Following the rejection of an iPhone app for content the developer didn't produce itself, Apple has given signs it may allow more risque software on the App Store once iPhone OS 3.0 and its enhanced parental locks become a reality.

The response came as part of a rejection notice sent to Newspaper(s) app creator Makayama over the initial submission of its article reading software; the software's inclusion of the UK edition of daily newspaper The Sun, which is well-known for the topless models in its Page 3 section, purportedly violated App Store rules against obscene content.

However, while that newspaper eventually had to be pulled for Makayama's app to clear Apple's review process, the company told iLounge that it might have a chance at resubmitting the app with the British paper intact once iPhone OS 3.0 is available. It "would be appropriate" to try submitting the app once the new firmware's parental controls are an option for iPhone owners, the Cupertino company said.

The upgrade, due to ship in the summer, is set to provide significantly expanded content filters that aren't limited to Apple's software. Although the block system hasn't been fully illustrated, it should let parents screen for particular kinds of apps and, in theory, prevent younger children from seeing Page 3 or other more controversial content in the future.

Requests for such a change policy are steadily becoming more prominent with the growth of the App Store and reached a possible boiling point this weekend, when Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor published Apple's rejection letter and accused it of hypocrisy (caution: profane language) in rejecting an update to the NIN: Access music fan app.

Even though Apple had green-lit version 1.0 with its access to the industrial band's music and videos as-is, an attempt to submit a patched version was rejected for allegedly including offensive material in a podcast accessible from the app, which had a copy of the song "The Downward Spiral" as part of the stream. Reznor likened Apple's approach to the double standards he sees in Walmart's music section, where bands have been forced to self-censor their albums even as games and movies with language, nudity and other content at least as offensive could be had in the same shop. "The Downward Spiral" and all of NIN's frequently expletive-laden songs are already available on iTunes while the Safari web browser and the iPhone's e-mail client aren't subjected to the same scrutiny, the artist said on Sunday.

Nine Inch Nails' preview video for the features of its iPhone app.

The Nine Inch Nails lead isn't alone in having been subjected to a seemingly random approach by Apple to monitoring content. In a more straightforward example of filtering content, author and CNET editor David Carnoy was pressured into removing expletives from an iPhone edition of his book. However, other apps, such as Latest Chatty from developer Alex Wayne, were rejected simply because of community members' posts (caution: further expletives) beyond his control that were still fully accessible through Safari on an iPhone or iPod touch.

At this stage, it's uncertain whether the notice to Makayama to wait until iPhone OS 3.0 is again the result of a frequent app-by-app variation in Apple's reactions to content or part of a more consistent approach. If the latter, however, it directly implies that more adult-oriented content may be allowed into the App Store under the assumption that parents concerned about content will finally have the tools to ban these apps from childrens' devices themselves.