iBook Author – is it OER incompatible?

Important update (20 February 2012): Apple acted to change the End User License Agreement on 3 February 2012 with release 1.0.1 of iBook Author. This modified the restriction on commercial use to say “and includes files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author” so it only applies to the iBook version of the text. As long as iBooks is the only platform to support that format this is no problem. So I hope it fixes most of the issues I mention. Though I must admit it still leaves me a little uncomfortable and probably still needs checking out a bit further.

Original post (20 January 2012): Following today’s Apple Education announcement I was intrigued by the CNET live blog having the comment that it was HyperCard reborn so I thought it might be worth a download. (Though still not an iPad owner.) The interface looks fine and my first thoughts were positive – this could be a way to finally knock Word off its undeserved position as the default way to pass documents around. But then just before I got going to have a play with actually doing something I noticed this:

The iBooks Author export dialog explaining that Books can only be sold through the iBookstore

The iBooks Author Export Dialogue

So this says that I can only sell by Book through the iBookstore. Fine I have no intention of selling anything… BUT I think this is the first time I have come across an application that says that I can only use the output – the thing I make – in a particular way. I then went investigating into the licence that I would be signing up for if I used the software.

This shows the link to the licence conditions.

Pressing on the License Agreement button gave me this:

This text warns about the restrictions on selling iBooks

Then reading down to the small print I find this explanation of what I can do:

This shows the option to distribute for free or if a fee is charged it must be through iBookstore

So condition (ii) clearly says that if you are making any money from the iBook then it must be distributed through Apple. But what about condition (i)  – that sounds ok but I feel there could be a couple of catches.

Catch 1: the file format is .iba (not sure you can do much with that other than put it it iBooks I guess) but you can also get a PDF so maybe that is not so bad.

Catch 2: if I produce something I want to but a Creative Commons licence on it. In fact if I am producing something for a couple of projects that I work on I am contractually required to produce it using CC-BY. But then CC-BY allows anyone else to republish AND they may do so for commercial gain.

So either I have found a loophole – release with CC-BY then anyone else (which typically include you) can reuse your work in anyway they wish provided they attribute it to you. OR I have found a barrier – you cannot stick a CC-BY licence on anything made with iBook Author. The terms imply this is true even if you export it as PDF (or strictly probably even if you export as text).

The CC-BY license showing attribution

This needs the usual health warning – I am not a legal expert, what is more I can just be plain wrong :-). Anyway I don’t like this condition and I have written this blog instead of playing with the software.

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22 Responses to iBook Author – is it OER incompatible?

  1. Tony Hirst says:

    My assumption is that you generally can’t relax other people’s license conditions… Is the full license available – as text – anywhere?

  2. dougclow says:

    I’m not a legal expert either, but I like sussing out license conditions. I don’t think there’s a major roadblock here, except possibly access to the iBookstore, and very possibly the licence conditions it may require.)

    My reading is that if you are giving it away for free (-as-in-beer), you can release an iBook as CC-BY, or whatever license you like, and distribute it how you like.

    Someone using your work is bound by the terms of your copyright license. If you don’t restrict them selling it or a derivative work (e.g. you don’t specify NC), then you’re not stopping them from selling it. But Apple is free to place restrictions on them if they wish to use the iBookstore – this is a separate agreement and isn’t (all) about copyright.

    Apple will require some form of copyright licence to any work on the iBookstore, so that they are legally allowed to distribute it. I don’t know whether they’re asking for a minimal ‘you can publish this via the iBookstore’ licence, or a maximal ‘you assign any and all rights to Apple’ one, or somewhere in between. There is scope here for conflict between CC licences if Apple insists on assignment or exclusivity of rights. I’d be surprised if they did for free-as-in-beer books, but it’s possible.

    So to take a toy example: Alice writes a book – entirely her own creative work – and releases it with a CC-BY license. She uses iBooks Author to make .iba and PDF copies.

    She’s not charging for it, so under the Apple terms above, she’s free to distribute it by any available means. (Note that it’s not specified whether the iBookstore is available to her or not.)

    If she wants to put it on the iBookstore, she will need to grant some form of licence to Apple in order for them to legally distribute it. As I said before, there’s potential for conflict with a CC licence here, but I haven’t looked at the iBookstore T&Cs.

    Bob comes along and wants to reuse the book. Under Alice’s CC-BY licence, so long as he attributes the original work to Alice, he can sell it and distribute it – or any derivatives he’d made – however he likes.

    (If Alice had released it as CC-BY-NC-SA, Bob would be bound by the NC and SA, and so wouldn’t be allowed to sell it, and would have to release any derivative works with the same licence.)

    However, if Bob wants to sell Alice’s CC-BY book via the iBookstore, Apple’s requires a separate written agreement with Bob first, and can say no for any reason or none.

    There’s the practical question of whether it’s possible (or easy) to access iBooks other than via the iBookstore (I think it is, but haven’t confirmed it), and whether it’s possible (or easy) to put iBooks you’re not charging for onto the iBookstore. I’ve not looked in to this but expect Apple to be following its usual practice.

    It does seem like a slightly shocking turn of events, though. I’m very skeptical that creating yet another incompatible ebook format (from what I’ve heard, but not verified, .iba is modified ePub) is a great thing for the easy dissemination of knowledge. And a software producer restricting how you can sell the products you create with their software does seem like a new and not entirely welcome development.

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  4. Jeffery Lay says:

    “a software producer restricting how you can sell the products you create with their software does seem like a new and not entirely welcome development.”

    Indeed it does. On the other hand – and assuming that .iba is, as I’m hearing, ePub3 – if that requirement isn’t there, someone could take Apple’s work (in creating the iBooks Author program) and use it to generate profit for Apple’s competition (e.g. Amazon). Understandably, Apple don’t want that.

    There’s a choice here: Use a proprietary format, which imposes restrictions, or use an open format and force the restrictions using licensing (and mandatory DRM applied to iBookstore-distributed versions). There’s a third choice, of course, which would be to not restrict either, but in order to do that and still justify the cost of developing the iBooks Author, the application couldn’t really be free. Since Apple want this to be widespread and boost their iTunes U resources, they don’t want to make the app non-free.

    Until we know definitively what the .iba format is, and whether it can be unpacked and ported to other devices or not, we won’t know which choice Apple have taken. For the moment, though, it’s a moot point, since nobody else supports either .iba or ePub3 yet. This means there’s time to wait and find out, and in the meantime we have to assume it’s an Apple-only thing. While this is bad in principle, the fact is that all other tablet sales totalled up are only around 10-15% of the iPad’s sales, so at least authors get to hit the majority of the market with this tool… at the cost of reinforcing the monoculture.

    It’s always a mixed bag, isn’t it? Nothing’s ever easy.

    • Jeffery Lay says:

      From http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/19/apple-textbook-event/, which has lots of detailed notes about the event, applications and output:

      “Books are not technically in the EPUB format, but they borrow from it (likely EPUB 3). Certain interactive elements of the books require the files to be done in the slightly different iBooks format, Apple says.”

      Sounds like most media could be re-used for other publication methods, but this particular assembly of parts can’t. Some of the stuff can be translated, e.g. Google’s SketchUp can convert between iBooks’ required 3D object format (Collada) format and some others. Of course, you’d have to make other editions of the work under a different title – perhaps “Book X, (iPad edition)” would be sufficient to differentiate them?

      • Jeffery Lay says:

        Furthermore: http://www.tuaw.com/2012/01/19/ibooks-author-under-the-hood/

        “If you re-name .ibooks files to .epub, they are just close enough to EPUB that you can read them into Adobe Digital Editions and Calibre. From Calibre, you can then export to EPUB although my tests show that you lose many of the fine details specific to Apple’s extensions. It’s so easy, however, to export directly to an iPad running iBooks 2, that you may not need to use this approach to recover EPUB files.

        You cannot directly export from Author to EPUB, nor can you import EPUB files back in. Projects are saved in .iba files. These are zipped archives, containing an XML index file and the resources used in the project. It seems very iWork-like from a save-file point of view.”

  5. Patrick says:

    Hi Jeff and Doug – thanks for the comments and certainly I am not sure of my position but I think the format restrictions are only part of the story. So let’s ignore those and assume we are using iBook Author as a PDF authoring system. Looking at the license there is no distinction made about the format of what is produced so it seems fair to assume that actually the same restrictions apply. This seems to be supported by other analysis out there e.g. from ZDnet http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/apples-mind-bogglingly-greedy-and-evil-license-agreement/4360?tag=nl.e589 [Thanks for the link Non!]

    To take up Doug’s example (though I will change the arbitrary choice of names):
    Say someone called “Doug” produces a PDF using iBook Author – he has no wish to make money and even works on a project which insists on educational material being released CC-BY. So his PDF is made available to the world CC-BY.
    – Then “Patrick” comes along and sees this CC-BY PDF – no commercial restrictions so he adds a page saying Welcome to “Patrick”‘s reusable content collection of resources specially selected for you. The remaining content was originally published CC-BY by “Doug”. Pay $1 to download from my superfast server.

    This results in a commercially available version of the content that is not from the original author and is not on iBookstore.

    From Doug’s original message – I think his position is that this is a possible sequence of events. But “Doug” and “Patrick” might even work for the same organisation or even sit right next to each other so this could feel like a way to circumvent the license.

    From Tony’s message: ” you generally can’t relax other people’s license conditions” in which case the sequence is not possible and hence the CC-BY license is not permitted. Though as Ian points out we may need to wait for a better statement of the license.

    So at best things are a bit confusing. At worst there will be an enthusiastic rush to use this as a tool to produce OER (Open Educational Resources) and then it will end up as CAER (Closed Apple Education Resources).

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  7. dougclow says:

    Interesting! You’ve convinced me there’s a possible issue here, and it is legally murky.

    Sticking with Patrick’s nomenclature to start with ….

    By Apple’s licence on iBook Author, “Doug” isn’t allowed to sell his PDF book for money. But “Patrick” isn’t bound by that agreement: he wasn’t a party to it. I’m not sure Apple has any standing to stop “Patrick” from selling it.

    (Unless, of course, “Patrick” uses iBook Author to add some bits to the book, in which case he’s bound by Apple’s licence. He’d be better advised to use another PDF tool.)

    Obviously, Apple doesn’t want this to happen – or at least, not at scale and for real money.

    In this light, it’s revealing to note the passive-voice wording ‘If your work is provided for free/a fee’ rather than ‘If you provide your work for free/a fee’ – to cover the case where a third party might be doing the providing of the Work.

    I think this is only a leak in Apple’s licence for creators who are prepared to give away their stuff without payment.

    If “Doug” gives his Work away to “Patrick” for free, that’s allowed, and “Patrick” is allowed to sell it. But if “Patrick” pays “Doug” anything for it, “Doug” is in trouble with Apple, because he’s charged a fee for the work, and that’s not allowed by the license binding “Doug”.

    Now, if “Doug” and “Patrick” work for the same organisation, and are acting in the course of their employment, I think Apple would have a fairly strong case that it’s their employer who is the legal entity acting here, and so has broken the terms of the licence.

    (As an aside, Apple tends to try hard to make agreements with individuals, rather than corporations, which has many benefits but might not be what they want here.)

    The licence does seem to be written to ignore the possibility of something being provided for free and for a fee simultaneously, which I think makes it really quite legally murky. How much providing do I have to do for free for it to be covered under section (i)?

    But I suspect the issue is not going to happen very much, and if it does at all, not for much money. A market tends to drive prices to the marginal cost of production, and the marginal cost of producing copies of an already-existing PDF is very nearly zero. “Patrick” will struggle to find many takers for his $1-value-added PDF unless he actually adds value.

    The scenario Apple would be more concerned about is where Alice is a best-selling author and Bob is a commercial publisher. I think they are betting – not unreasonably – that it’s very unlikely that Alice would give her work to Bob without payment. At least, not if Alice’s work is going to make real money. Vanity publishers do exist (as do other models where the author pays the publisher) but they don’t make significant money by selling copies of the published work.

    It is very interesting. For now I’m certainly not going to leap to create an iBook Author version of anything I actually want to release as CC-BY in a hurry.

    One final note: this seems to be an interesting case where it’s us more pragmatic open access types who have difficulties. If you’re a more idealist open access person, you’ll be CC-BY-NC-SA all the way, and will have no licence problem using iBook Author. (Though you might have qualms about doing anything with Apple.)

  8. stuart brown says:

    Hi Patrick,

    I was wondering about the reuse of OpenLearn material in the iTunesU environment. Doesn’t repurposed content have to be shared-alike?

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Stuart,
      ON OpenLearn as the OU holds the copyright then we are not actually bound to follow the CC terms. The CC-BY-NC-SA license used on OpenLearn is the position we declare to the world that gives permissions without having to contact use further. If people want to do things that are not compliant then they could make contact and ask for additional specific permission. Equally we can release material under other licenses without revoking the CC-BY-NC-SA clause.
      This does not mean that iTunesU is not causing some problems. I think at the beginning there was no choice but to use the Apple license – my belief is that it is now possible to release with CC licenses indicated (e.g. University of Oxford does that). But it would be a lot better if iTunesU properly support the CC licenses.
      Terese Bird gave a good talk as a SCORE Fellow about iTunesU and made the point that licenses and embedding provided possible reasons to choose YouTube over iTunesU. For replay see http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?s=31&whichevent=1825 [Session 2 recording]
      Note also Doug’s last point about CC-BY-NC-SA being actually compatible with the iBook Author – so this could see a return of the more restrictive licenses. I must admit I quite like the CC-BY-NC-SA as it does actually achieve more of what we are trying to do.
      [Normal disclaimer applies - I may be wrong about anything!]

  9. I’m no legal expert, but my gut reaction is, if its murky – stay away, and look for a clearly labelled open alternative. From the comments on
    https://plus.google.com/107033731246200681024/posts/JfnFwJHvkhS
    I reached:
    http://code.google.com/p/sigil/
    Anyone seen it before?

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