Apple Rejects My Caricature App

November 9th, 2009 | Posted in General


EDIT– Apple reconsidered its decision and approved the Bobble Rep app after a media storm of protest was set off by this innocent little rant on my insignificant little blog. Below is the original blog post:

Just yesterday I was complaining about how Apple sometimes treats its customers as if they were stupid.

I had no idea how right I was.

Back in the late summer movie director/entrepreneur Ray Griggs, for whom I did all that art for his movie “Super Capers“, approached me with an idea for an iPhone app. The concept was a database of all the members of the United States Congress which allowed the user to find the names and contact information of their senators and congressional representative either via zipcode or by using the iPhone’s GPS location services. He wanted the visuals to be more than just a bunch of pictures, and asked me to do caricatures for each senator and representative.

That’s 540 caricature if you are keeping count (including those non-voting members of the house from Puerto Rico, Guam, etc.). FIVE HUNDRED FORTY. Five-four-Oh. Whew.

The caricature “heads” would be placed on one of 12 different bodies I has also drawn to make a cartoon, virtual “bobblehead” for each member of congress’s page. You can make the heads bobble by shaking your phone or flicking the head with your finger. Of course that’s just a novelty, and the real purpose of the app is the database that allows you to find out who your representatives in Washington are and how to contact them.

I did all 540 caricatures. In fact I finished the last few dozen in my hotel room in Washington DC prior to my USO trip. Ray and his programmers wrapped up the programming and the app was sent to Apple for approval.

Here are some of the visuals that were sent to Apple:

Bobble Rep 1

Bobble Rep 2

Bobble Rep 3

Bobble Rep 4

Bobble Rep 5

Ray had showed a lot of people this app, and there was a fair amount of interest in it. In fact, he tells me that he is booked to appear on both the Glenn Beck John Stossel show and the Mike Huckabee show next week to talk about the app and his upcoming documentary. Both Beck Stossel and Huckabee loved the app and that’s what precipitated his appearance on their shows.

Looks like all Ray will have to talk about is how ridiculous Apple’s app approval folks are, since the app was REJECTED yesterday . Here is Apple’s official rejection letter and the “reason”:

Subject: Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition 1.0: Application Submission Feedback

Please include the line below in follow-up emails for this request.

Follow-up:  87280909

Dear Mr. Griggs,

Thank you for submitting Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition to the App Store. 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¬¨‚Ć 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.”

A screenshot of this issue has been attached for your reference.

If you believe that you can make the necessary changes so that Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition does not violate the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, we encourage you to do so and resubmit it for review.

iPhone Developer Program

Wow. I’ve had rejections in theme parks before but never because my drawings were considered “obscene, pornographic, or defamatory”. I can see where they are coming from, though. Check out these “hard hitting” caricatures (said with tongue firmly in cheek):

CA- Harman
CA- Harman

ND- Pomeroy
ND- Pomeroy

OH- Kucinich
OH- Kucinich

Brutal, I know. I mean, if Dennis Kucinich ever saw that he’d doubtless curl up in the fetal position and cry for a week. What was I thinking, doing these over-the-top, cut-throat abominations of caricatures for a public iPhone app????

Wait… someone is at the door. MAYBE IT’S THE SECRET SERVICE!!!!!!

This is truly ridiculous. These caricatures aren’t mean or very exaggerated. They are simple, fun cartoon likenesses of the politicians and the purpose of the app is a informational database. There is no editorial commentary involved at all.

This is the very reason that Apple as a company should be taken to task over its ludicrous and inconsistent app approval policies. Clearly this app does not “ridicule public figures” and is violating nothing, but Apple has decided the world must be protected from the insidious subversiveness this would force upon the public and the brutal, heinous ridicule that my cruel, cruel caricatures would subject these politicians to.

Hard to believe that anybody could be this blind. Maybe they just have a monkey doing the approval of their apps, and he throws a dart at a dartboard with “approved” and “rejected” targets on it and whatever it hits is the fate of that app. That would explain how they could approve an app with a cartoon baby picture and when you shake the phone hard enough the baby dies. Yes, that one got through only to be yanked after some outraged people complained, but no way are a bunch of flame-throwing caricatures going to get through!!!


The really sad part is that here is an app that might get people interested in who represents them in Washington, especially kids and young adults, and connects people to their senators and representatives via fun and PARTISAN FREE way. Yet Apple has decided it’s not appropriate. There needs to be more of that in this world of right versus left, especially as that applies to young kids who are being raised to consider politics the public equivalent of professional wrestling. Ray’s documentary “I Want Your Money” is distinctly right wing (and my own political views are mostly left of center) but the app is totally partisan neutral.

Please spread the word how stupid this rejection is. Apple of course does not care what its customers think… apparently they consider us idiots at best anyway (appropriate on my part, as I am a member of MAD‘s “Usual Gang of Idiots”), but it’s worth a laugh and a shake of your head.

EDIT- Thanks for all the comments, support and suggestions from everyone. Ray and his programmer Stevo Brock are working on other options, including other platforms… but that’s all in their hands. I just draw funny pictures. I’m going to close down comments on this thread, but feel free to e-mail me with further comments or suggestions.

Also, for those who have written and asked about seeing all 540 of the congressional caricatures, one way or another I will make sure we publish those… either via the app on another platform or here on my website if nothing else.


  1. […] One persons experience getting his app rejected after making 540 caricatures. ¬¨‚ĆClick here to […]

    • Gregg Thurman says:

      Pelosi should be very happy with her caricature. She looks better in caricature than she does in real life.

      I’m trying, but I don’t see anything that remotely denigrates our representatives. Their own actions can’t be topped.

    • JB says:

      Screw Apple. Submit it to Droid, Blackberry, and all the rest. The iPhone app can use nice public photos. Maybe their 2nd grade pictures or some crap, make Apple happy.

  2. Obviously, the problem is Apple geographically confused. They think they are based in China and will get shot for making fun of politicians. Either that or Jobs plans to run for Congress and doesn’t want to be a bobble head.

  3. Mike says:

    Apple, despite being generally being a great company, can do some pretty stupid things – this being one of them. Mike

  4. Zorin says:

    Port this app to the Palm Pre and to Android phones. Tell Apple to get ****ed. Seriously.

    If they don’t want the app on their platform, let’s port it to platforms without such idiotic policies. The customer base may not be so large, but seeing that most of the work in this app went into the artwork, the port should be not much work for a lot of gain.

    Good luck.

  5. Stereoscott says:

    The app store needs more high quality apps like this! Imagine how boring an app would be like this if there were no caricatures… I hope this gets to the right person at Apple and it gets approved. More people need to get involved with politics, and this is a great way to encourage it. Regardless, the illustrations are amazing and hopefully you can release a similar web-based version if the official app never makes it.

  6. Philip Willey says:

    This is Bullsh*t, Tom. I’m flushing my ipod right now.

  7. bobdmac says:

    I’ve been an Apple customer since the days of the II gs, and I sometimes shake my head at some of the things Apple does, but this takes the cake for cowardice, mealy-mouthed hypocrisy, or both. Whatever happened to the “Think Different” mentality, that embraced “…the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square hole?”

  8. steve jovs says:

    when can I get this for my android phone?

  9. Alex says:

    Not that i agree with Apple’s interpretation (it’s ridiculous) & your ‘Right of Publicity’ reasoning certainly does apply to such First Amendment-covered depictions of pols in political cartoons, illustrations, etc., there’s room to quibble when usage of their personages can be interpreted as exploitation of an individual for commercial purposes.

    Not too long ago Schwarzenegger sued a bobble-head maker for just that. That perhaps is a stronger reason for Apple’s rejection….

    ..although it would naturally seem that you & your partner would be ultimately responsible for the content & thus any poss. litigation, Apple knows it would be a richer target.

    Hope those 540 caricatures weren’t done on spec 🙂

    • Tom says:

      Your point is taken but the right of publicity does not apply for several reasons. First, Arnold’s suit was against a maker of a product that relied solely on his image for it’s appeal. This is a collection of all members of congress, making the argument that any individual image is the focal point of the product moot. I’d direct you to the case of ETW Corporation v. Jireh Publishing, Inc. (99 F.Supp.2d 829 N.D.Ohio, 2000), the courts found that an artist selling limited edition art prints of Tiger Woods at the Masters did not violate his ROP as the work contained ‚Äö√Ñ√∫significant transformative elements‚Äö√Ñ√π and did not sell solely on the identity of Woods but was in depicting the Masters golf tournament and the sport of golf in general. That makes it “fair use”. Secondly Arnold’s suit was more about his fame pre-politics than his fame as a politician. He had a marketable image pre-governorship.

      Also it’s worth noting the Arnold suit was settled out of court and the company was allowed to make the doll but had to lose the machine gun the original was holding. Once the references to Arnold’s pre-political persona was removed it became okay.

      Besides, Apple approved a similar app using photos of the members of congress, and the right of publicity extends to the use of photography as well as art. This is about Apple thinking the caricatures were derogatory and ridiculed the subjects.

  10. […] The second was rejected because cartoon versions of politicians were included in the app. OH NO! People might recognize their representative! And find information on them! We can’t have that now… My favorite line for the article is: Hard to believe that anybody could be this stupid and blind. Maybe they just have a monkey doing the approval of their apps, and he throws a dart at a dartboard with ‚Äö√Ñ√∫approved‚Äö√Ñ√π and ‚Äö√Ñ√∫rejected‚Äö√Ñ√π targets on it and whatever it hits is the fate the that app. […]

  11. Liz Myers says:

    Actually, I’d like to see the app built out even more. I’ve thought for some time that we need a popular app that portrays our representatives AND shows their voting records. While the voting records are complex – at least they’re in the public domain – so no copyright or costs involved there. The heavy lifting would be in deciphering these online records, simplifying, and boiling the info down into something digestible by mere mortals. Bottom line: if I could review my representatives voting records, I’d have something meaty to contact them about AND I WOULD GET INVOLVED.

    If I were you – I’d give it another go – perhaps different monkeys will be on duty next time and will hit the “approved” bullseye.

    Best of luck – we’re voting for ya! 😉

  12. […] Day, Another DoubleDumb Apple Book Rejection! Apple Rejects My Caricature App Back in the late summer movie director/entrepreneur Ray Griggs, for whom I did all that art for his […]

  13. Imran Anwar says:

    You’re not alone. We created a simple free iPhone app to support Iran Democracy but Apple rejected it. Seems they are more interested in protecting Ahmedejijad than in supporting democracy and the people who are dying for it.


  14. Bob M says:

    To hell with Apple — Please port this app over to webOS for the Palm Pre and Pixie!

  15. I would say, fiddle with the controls, reapply, and hope another rep reviews this time around.

  16. Niilo says:

    This is just insane… As an iPhone app developer myself I have become wary of any idea that comes to mind for a new app. Apple’s hypocritical and ridiculously over-zealous rejection policies are making developers second-guess themselves at every turn now. You never know what is going to be cause for rejection, and you can’t go by what’s already been approved.

    I find it incredulous to think that an app like yours, which is not in the slightest way defamatory or obscene, and actually provides a useful service in a fun way, can be rejected when I see some of the blatantly pornographic and bad-taste apps that have been approved, and continue to be accepted into the App Store.

    Now, if you’d foregone the caricatures, and just made the app fart or belch or show a picture of a Japanese schoolgirl pulling her skirt up whenever you selected a member of Congress, you’d have had it approved in no time!


  17. Jon Casey says:

    Appeal. There has GOT to be a process for it. Ill sign a petition.

  18. John D says:


    They allow fart sounds and don’t allow caricatures of someone who is in office? Sounds like someone didn’t like the way their rep looked. MAD has always bordered on the edge but I cannot imagine anything offensive (especially seeing the samples).

    This is something I would have probably purchased – could have used it today in fact and the idea that a database could be fun as well as provide me with the info I desire is really quite cool!

    Come on APPLE, we all know it is your choice what you want to sell but LIGHTEN UP A BIT eh?


    I got my first Mac at end of Mar 1984 and have owned over a dozen and a half different models since (many more actual machines)…
    I still have my (the) first iPod, Imagewriters, 400K floppy, etc…


  19. Michael Britton says:

    It’s also another reason why Apple must be stopped from locking down the phone and not allowing apps from outside of the Almighty App Store from being installed. No wonder peope jailbreak the phone (and the Touch, for that matter)… they can turn to Cydia to get apps that haven’t been subjected to The Apple Spanish Inquisition.

    Apple better take a closer look at Android Market which, other than automatically screening an app for anything that could damage a phone or the network, or is an obvious privacy violation, allows anyone to post apps and only removes them if users complain, not someone sitting in a 3×5 room in Cupertino wearing a pair of panties 2 sizes too small that ride up in their backside… in other words, with their panties in a knot.

  20. Kneebiter says:

    Beautiful … just another fine example of how political correctness has hamstrung the country. Knowing the tone that’s been set by the current administration, it wouldn’t surprise me if this rejection had one of the vaunted czar’s or czarina’s red Sharpie all over it. And with your forthcoming links to FOX and Beck (you know, the “toy” network where nothing newsworthy or legitimate is ever reported) … well … one need only read between the lines!

    Never let it be said that I didn’t do my part to keep my funds flowing into the economy by supporting small businesses, so I’ve ordered your Bo publication. Been a fan of MAD since the mid-sixties and will continue to be. Keep up the good work!

  21. kevin says:

    Just remembered that Apple was glad to approve an app in which the user pretended to shake a baby to death.

  22. Hi Tom,

    I’ve developed a number of apps under contract that have been rejected for all kinds of reasons — including potential defamation.

    My advice: continually resubmit the app with almost no changes (possibly tighten up your copy writing to re-enforce the lightheartedness and good nature of your app but that’s about it).

    You’ll get through. Hope to see your app up soon!


  23. Roy Sutton says:

    I’ll echo the comments above. I think we’d love to have a great, polished application like this on the the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi. Developing is super-easy but if any help is needed we have some great resources. Just let me know and I’ll point folks in the right direction.

  24. generic musings says:

    If Apple doesn’t want it for the iPhone, see if Ray Griggs can/will port it over for the Palm Pre. I’d even consider paying for this app.

  25. Fred says:

    On the surface it may seem like a stupid rejection…but there’s something else going on here. If Glenn Beck “loved” the app then it unfit for human use. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. 😉

  26. Timon says:

    Please, please port this to Android. I’d love to put it on the Droid I’m getting.

    I sure hope that Apple changes their way before Verizon get the iPhone late next year. If not I’ll stick with the Droid.

  27. Glenn says:

    Here’s a copy of what i just sent at :

    If Adolph Hitler were alive today, he’d want to kiss & shake the hands of everyone at Apple that rejects apps like Bobble Rep. I’m So glad I escaped from my 2 years under the iPhone/AT&T Dictatorship to a cellphone & provider that better represent the foundation for the United States of America. In case you forgot, some of us still enjoy FREEDOM OF SPEECH which is something our soldiers are dying to protect.

  28. W. Marques says:

    I’d really like to see this app developed for the Android 2.0 operating system. Things like this and the shoddy AT&T network are precisely what has kept me from getting an iPhone. I will, however, be upgrading my Blackberry to an Andriod phone in the next month or two and would absolutely love to have this app on my phone. Its a fantastic and easy to use idea. Kudos, but don’t leave the rest of us hanging just because Apple’s app store is run by idiots.

  29. elldove says:

    As long as Apple is going to reject Apps based on content and not quality/stability/bugs the fact that they allowed Mein Kampf ( ) into the apple store and not apps like Tom’s is disgusting.

    Personally, I’d rather they let everything that is stable and not a virus into the app store. I am willing to accept that Apple is not bound by the 1st Amendment, but if “objectionable” becomes a cause for rejection then I’d say Mein Kampf fits the bill more than anything else.

  30. Shannon Kish says:

    wow, what a fantastic app! I absolutely love it and I think Apple should be punished severely for not publishing it. How absolutely crazy. There’s not a single caricature that I see that isn’t just that…a caricature. Political cartoons with similar caricatures are strewn across every newspaper and they have a problem with this? I would have definitely downloaded it. As a matter of fact, there’s a little hole inside me now because I can’t have this app. I’m saddened. If there’s anything I can do, like send Apple a scathing letter, let me know. 😉

  31. scornn says:

    Please post their email address and we will contact them.

  32. robinson says:

    They reminded me of those old Mad magazine caricatures and I see from one poster that you did work for them… I should rummage the site and learn more. I miss the mag!

    I like the idea of adding voting records (ratings by ADA, ACU, etc.).

    I chuckled over the idea of turning these figures into bobble-heads. It’s pretty clear that the obscene, porn, defamatory clause is likely not the issue (well maybe defamatory). It’s the first part of Apple’s letter: “contains content that ridicules public figures”.

    Come on, Apple! We have a rich history in this country of ridiculing public figures… but worse, this app doesn’t do that!! It certainly isn’t defamatory. In fact, most of those bobble-head dolls of sports figures are even given out at ballparks to celebrate or honor the person– and they’re far sillier than this!

    Maybe you all can get some of the representatives and Senators to back you and contact Apple! I’d imagine that a couple of calls would change things pretty quickly. Say, ex-pol Al Gore should talk to Steve directly!

  33. kellyp says:

    They are acting like the school principles that are dealing with the zero tolerance rules that don’t allow for distinctions. The apple employees are given guidelines that they are required to follow and that is what they are doing.

  34. Gary says:

    Unless one or more of the charactures really is objectable (if so, fix that), hopefully with enough exposure Apple will realize they made a mistake here. Or maybe the characture of the Apple reviewers’ represenitive was objectionable (either too kind or too mean, depending).

  35. Dave Mackey says:

    Makes me glad I’m already a Verizon customer.

    Fight the good fight, Tom.

  36. Karl Simpson says:

    Hello Tom,
    dont usually do this but just had to leave a response when I read this story.
    I guess thay have their reasons and who knows they may change their mind yet.

    Its a dumb reason by the way, I totally agree that in no way do the caricatures ridicule the person.

    My real issue here though is your comment about them ALLOWING an app where you can kill a baby ! Who in the world allowed that one through, the mind boggles Tom it really does, and WHO bought that ?

    Love the site, still checking by every day.

  37. MrPlywood says:

    I started reading Mad Magazine at about age 6 in the mid-sixties (I’m 50 now) and credit the publication for helping to develop my healthy skepticism towards politics, fame, “stars”, etc. To me, MAD was always “equal opportunity” when it came to poking fun. This is no different. Apple should lighten up. I would get this app in a second, and so would my 18-year-old Political Science major daughter.

    Great illustrations! That’s a ton of work…

  38. Rob says:

    Ridiculous – and I tweeted about it

  39. Ray Gardner says:

    I’m Apple user from the 80s, but Steve is a well known Lefty, and that is the trend among his people.

    So it could be that they got wind of the Glenn Beck appearance. In the minds of Apple management that would unnecessarily connect them to the right wing, and they’d just as soon open their wrists.

    But the images themselves are the farthest thing from defamatory. Seriously, look at the caricature of Pelosi, and then look at a photo. You were obviously trying to do her a favor.

  40. Jodo Kast says:

    Jerks are as jerks do.

  41. Jason Marin says:

    Appeal! I think your caricatures, as well as idea behind the app, are fantastic.

    I’m a student of political science, and believe deeply in civic engagement, and this app is a perfect marriage of both.

    I’ll be of any help I can offer — to echo some of my colleagues, keep on fighting the good tight tom, and if there’s a petition, lemme know, my signature is guaranteed!


  42. Wow, Tom, unbelievable. I don’t have anything Mac, nor do I have an iPhone, and I always thought they were too…liberal. But they’re just another big corp, I guess.

    I’m always contacting my political reps, so I think this is a fantastic idea – I’d use it constantly! And I’d much rather buy one w/cartoon illustration than photos.

    The only drawing I would think is defamatory a bit is Nancy Pelosi – she looks idiotic and cross-eyed. Maybe she is cross-eyed, though?

    I hope the other comments here are right, and maybe you just need to resubmit it.

  43. jenmenke says:

    Insane. And the really insane thing? i was searching for something else in the app store the other day and came across true blue soft porn! Naughty Hotties? Peek A Babe?

    I’ll say it again: INSANE.

  44. telcodud says:

    Have you considered porting your app to other platforms such as Android, WebOS, etc.? As also mentioned by others here, I suspect that it wouldn’t be a significant effort, given that the caricatures were the hardest part.

  45. wotten1 says:

    Almost surreal, Tom. But hey, NYTimes Tech Guru, David Pogue tweeted about this silliness and generated lotsa agreement around the blogosphere and twitterverse so … who knows? Perhaps Apple may re-think its position …

  46. recursional says:

    I dropped my iPhone plans when Apple quit the Chamber of Commerce because that organization refused to pay tribute to Algore’s global warming nonsense. I see this app rejection as further evidence of an organization that has lost it’s way.

  47. Juggleware says:

    Our first app Freedom Time was rejected in 2008 for portraying Bush as a bobble head on a clock face that counted down the seconds to the end of his time in office. They also let through a pro-GOP app that us essentially an encyclopedia of misinformation and right wing hate speech, so if anything they’ve shown a bias against the left. Steve Jobs replied to me in an email that he doesn’t want any apps in the store that could serve to alienate customers. I think they should have let all these apps in.

  48. AdamC says:

    Relax, just make the necessary changes and resubmit the app, no reason to blow your top but if you feel that you are justified in not making any change then the onus is on you and not Apple.

    Btw Apple didn’t say anything about your app being all the derogatory stuff they had mentioned but you blew up that part only for reasons you know yourself.

    Have a nice day and from what I had read your app stands a good chance of being accepted and it is a great app so don’t throw in the towel yet.

  49. Niilo says:

    By the way, Tom – if you can’t get it on the iPhone, it seems like this would be a perfect desktop Widget, maybe done as an Adobe AIR app, and the port shouldn’t be that difficult. Please feel free to contact me if you’re interested as I may be able to help.

  50. Rochelle says:

    Oh man – I’d totally buy this app…it looks awesome!
    Screw apple. Appeal it, and if necessary send in a petition. Heck, we’ll all back you up! Sorry you had to go through this. What an awful waste of time.


LA Workshop no. 2 underway today!

Workshops Ad

Dracula ad

Doctor Who Ad

Superman Ad

%d bloggers like this: