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Apple Reverses Course, OKs Eucalyptus for iPhone Despite Kama Sutra Threat

Apple has reversed course on its decision to reject Eucalyptus, an iPhone app that allows users to search for and download classic, public domain books. Developer Jamie Montgomerie announced last week that Apple had rejected the app because it contained "objectionable material" -- to wit: access to the fifth century text The Kama Sutra -- but after a firestorm of negative publicity, the company let Mr. Montgomerie know his app was good to go.

In a blog post over the holiday weekent, Mr. Montgomerie wrote, "Earlier today I received a phone call from an Apple representative. He was very complimentary about Eucalyptus. We talked about the confusion surrounding its App Store rejections, which I am happy to say is now fully resolved. He invited me to re-build and submit a version of Eucalyptus with no filters for immediate approval, and that full version is now available on the iPhone App Store."

Eucalyptus in action
Eucalyptus in action

The app allows users to search for and download some 20,000 public domain books. Mr. Montgomerie's aim was to provide users with a book-reading experience on the iPhone that was closer to the analog world than the digital. "Books feel like books, not Web pages," according to the app's description on iTunes.The problem that Mr. Montgomerie ran into was that titles like Hindu sex manual The Kama Sutra, which was compiled by Vatsyayana between the first and sixth century (depending on who you ask), is a bit naughty.

By "a bit," we mean very, very naughty in the context of contemporary society because it graphically shows people how to have sex in a plethora of ways. This, according to Apple, is in violation of Section 3.3.12 from the iPhone SDK Agreement which states:

Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users.

According to the company's original ruling on the app, even though Eucalyptus only allows access to such text, it's still in violation of the anti-naughty clause. This despite the fact that Google's own Google app, not to mention Safari itself, effectively allow access to the same material

Fortunately, however, the resulting firestorm of protest and commentary clicked on a logic circuit somewhere in Cupertino, and the situation has been resolved.

Eucalyptus is available on iTunes for US$9.99.

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