App Law Within: Rights and Regulation in the Smartphone Age
International Journal of Law and Information Technology, 2013, 21(2), pp. 154-186
30 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2012 Last revised: 21 Jun 2013
Date Written: September 1, 2012
This paper assesses the regulation of smartphone 'app stores.' At the outset, the adoption of smartphones and apps is noted, alongside the ways in which scholars and journalists have used these markets as the basis for the discussion of legal and economic issues. The importance (commercially and as a study in governance and control) of the iOS App Store (Apple) is highlighted. Part 2 deals with the relationship between Apple and app developers; three themes of Apple’s Guidelines are identified (content, development and payments), and the ways in which control can be challenged (through jailbreaking, ‘web apps’ and regulatory intervention) are scrutinised. Part 3 considers three ways in which apps are already regulated by law: the protection of consumers (particularly through the UK system for 'premium rate services'), user privacy, and (in brief) the regulation of video games and video-on-demand services in Europe. Finally, in Part 4, the tension between comparatively 'open and 'closed' app stores is highlighted; the problems of applying general provisions to emerging formats are emphasised. It is concluded that the emerging status of non-carrier app stores as neither retailer nor platform means that it is not yet possible to identify the form of regulation that is in operation, but that some steps are available to legislators that could shift the balance between closed and open models.
This is a pre-print of an article, the final form of which appears in the International Journal of Law and Information Technology (Oxford University Press).
Keywords: smartphones, app stores, Internet regulation, e-commerce
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