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Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 11/15/2009

UPDATE: A new Congressional app for your iPhone? Artist says Apple finally bites

By The Reliable Source

Kerry, McCain & Pelosi (among others), as you may never see them -- thanks to Apple. (Courtesy of Tom Richmond )

UPDATE: MAD artist Tom Richmond tells Comic Riffs this weekend that Apple has just notified him that -- amid all the attention to his story -- the decision has been reversed and his iPhone app "Bobble Rep" has now been approved and is available via iTunes.

Flatulence has proved to be a killer app. So have virtual brewskis and beer pong. You want a lightsaber or a Zippo lighter? Dude, there's an app for that.

But light political amusement for your iPhone? Apple, it seems, is unable to think that different.

MAD magazine artist Tom Richmond tells Comic Riffs that Apple has shot down his application concept. His apparent sin, he says: Drawing caricatures of our vaunted men and women serving on the Hill.

The would-be iPhone app, called "Bobble Rep: 111th Congress Edition," was to be informational -- a literal database of congressional representatives. Richmond said the user could find "names and contact information ... either via Zip code or by using the iPhone's GPS location services."

Richmond says the app was developed by entrepreneur/filmmaker Ray Griggs, for whom the caricaturist previously created art for Griggs's film "Super Capers." Richmond's assignment: Draw caricatures of each politician that could be placed on different bodies to create a virtual "bobblehead." Richmond says he drew 540 caricatures.

Apple wouldn't bite, though, the artist says. Richmond posts what he says is a copy of the "official rejection letter" and the "reason." The posted response from the "iPhone Developer Program" reads, in part:

We've reviewed Bobble Rep - 111th Congress Edition and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains content that ridicules public figures and is in violation of Section 3.3.14 from the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement which states:

"Applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple's reasonable judgement may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory."

The Nancy Pelosi caricature: Does only Steve Jobs find this offensive? (Courtesy of Tom Richmond )

Since Richmond posted his fairly incredulous "rant" on his blog, the rejection began to make some news within the tech community, including a response from MacWorld and a salvo from CNN's Brainstorm Tech.

At press time, Apple had not returned several calls from The Post seeking comment.

Comic Riffs caught up with Richmond -- the world-class caricaturist was en route to a cartooning conference in Australia -- to get his direct take on the whole incident. His thoughts:

MICHAEL CAVNA: When were you first approached about this job, and how long, off and on, did you spend on it?

TOM RICHMOND: Ray Griggs first asked me about my interest in late July at Comic-Con in San Diego. However I didn't get going on it until mid-September. ... Procrastination is one of my more developed skills.

MC: Was this your first official app assignment you've taken?

TR: Actually this is not my first iPhone app. Ray and I collaborated on a digital comic book that was a prequel to his movie "Super Capers." Funny, that was full of my caricatures of the actors from the film yet was approved and is in the App Store right now.

MC: Did you at all anticipate it might be rejected?

TR: I never dreamed it would be rejected. Never mind that the caricaturing of politicians has been an American institution since before Thomas Nast, but my caricatures are flattering by most standards. To say they "ridicule public persons" is a stretch.

MC: So what's the next step -- will you resubmit the work with alterations? And have you had contact with Apple since the app was rejected?

TR: I'm not sure what we'll do. I'm certainly not going to redo the art. ... It's about as nonthreatening as caricatures go and still look like the subjects. Ray and his team are weighing their options. I am sure other platforms like Android, Palm etc would welcome the app. There has been communication from Apple, but nothing new yet.

Such area political lights as Warner, Webb and Holmes Norton are caricatured by MAD magazine artist Tom Richmond. (Courtesy of Tom Richmond )

MC: As long as we're on topic: Who's the most fun to caricature in Congress, and why?

TR: Most all were enjoyable to draw, but the single face that sticks out in my mind as the most fun was California representative Henry Waxman. Not that many members of Congress [are] elected for their good looks, but Rep. Waxman has features we in the caricature business have a term for. ... It's called a "field day". I also enjoyed drawing the senators and reps from my home state of Minnesota.

[But for this app], I did straight caricatures with no editorial commentary at all, just worked with features and expression. Obviously, [some folks] had things I could have played with, but I consciously stayed away from that.

So what do you think, 'Riffs readers? Would you want this "Bobblehead" app for your cellphone?

By The Reliable Source  | November 15, 2009; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Geek Buzz, General, Interviews With Cartoonists, The Political Cartoon  | Tags:  om Richmond; Ray Griggs; MAD magazine; Congress; iPhone; Apple; Bobble Rep  
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This, from the company that regularly lampoons the "PC Guy" in its ads? I suspect the reason Apple rejected this app is that they were afraid that Tom Richmond might try to sneak in a Steve Jobs bobblehead.

Port it to the Droid, I say!

Posted by: seismic-2 | November 12, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

There is a delicate issue at stake here, and it has nothing to do with this particular app. The creators of the "bobblehead" program are on very firm (legal) ground. There is nothing wrong with caricatures of public figures; they appear daily in most newspapers.

However, there is also no reason that Apple should be expected to pass judgement and APPROVE of the artwork involved: this would give anyone who is offended a reason to attack (or sue) Apple, instead of the app's creators. Given that Apple has much more money, this makes them a much more lucrative target. I'm not at all surprised that they declined in this case.

The critical issue is as follows: why should Apple have the right to forbid ANY application that a programmer creates for the iPhone? This could be compared to someone selling microwave ovens, and then dictating the kinds of food that purchasers are (or are NOT) allowed to cook in them. I have nothing against Apple issuing a "seal of approval" (just like Microsoft does for PC software and hardware), but Apple goes much farther, making it practically impossible to distribute any program that they do not like.

Posted by: kilby | November 12, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Maybe the best thing to do is submit the app again this time for the Droid.

Posted by: davidmcelroy | November 14, 2009 5:13 AM | Report abuse

Note the senators for NW DC are from Virginia. The app can't handle the fact that we are taxed, but have no congressional representation. Maybe in DC he could have drawn an image representing the fact that we have no representation?

Posted by: BrentwoodGuy | November 15, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

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