Torrents on Your iPhone? Yes! No! Maybe!

Drivetrain, an application for the Apple iPhone developed by Maza Digital, would have allowed users to remotely control the Transmission torrent client running on their home computer. I say “would have,” because it was rejected by the App Store. “This category of applications is often used for the purpose of infringing third-party rights,” the rejection email stated. “We have chosen to not publish this type of application to the App Store.”


But in fact Apple has already chosen to publish that type of application to the App Store — namely Trackr, from Muzi Software. Neither application offers the ability to actually download content, infringing or otherwise, to an iPhone; both are simply remote access applications. And in a world of tethered devices and technology companies teaming up with content providers, you can probably expect to see more of these arbitrary decisions.

AT&T, the exclusive American carrier for the iPhone, specifically bans any sort of copyright infringement activity over its mobile network. AT&T also happens to be in the content distribution business itself with its U-verse IPTV offering. And Apple CEO managed to get a seat on Disney’s board after that company purchased his Pixar animation studio. But correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation in this case, especially when in this case two conflicting decisions have been made.

Sure, such vertical integration is great when it makes a Wall-E download a click-buy-watch experience while riding the bus. But it also serves to keep you within the limits of the Byzantine legalese set forth in reams of contracts, terms of service and license agreements for which you sign up. And you’ll have to play by ground rules that will more than likely prove arbitrary, and generally favor the home team.

After all, remember to whom marketers and salespeople are referring when offering you “foolproof usability.”

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