Columbo and Monk have been rejected by Apple

Apple have rejected our two latest apps Columbo and Monk. They are concerned that we do not have copyright clearance to use the super small thumbnail images for both characters. Apple suggested we get clearance from NBC and ABC respectively.

All we’re doing is to use very small thumbnails of each show’s DVD and book covers, images which are commonly available on the internet from multiple sources. Therefore my research indicates this would be what’s commonly known as “fair use”. Here’s how I’ve explained my position to Apple:

My apps are episode guides that help users keep track of which episodes of each TV show they have seen. They are therefore educational reference utilities. Both shows are no longer produced, but are available on DVD and other online outlets (Monk for example is available on iTunes). In my two apps I have used low resolution screenshots of DVD covers and book covers. This is to aid users in recognizing the book or season in question.

I believe copyright clearance is not necessary because I’m using these low resolution images under the “fair use” articles of the US Copyright Law (Sections 107-118). Here are some links that may clarify why I believe this:


Standford University Library:

Notably there’s a section about audio and visual reproduction:

US Copyright Office:

I have tried to get in touch with both potential copyright holders (NBC and ABC) but have not yet heard back from them. However, even though these networks have produced both shows, they have NOT produced the actual images I am using (which are of course freely available in the internet). DVD and book covers are not commissioned by the actual, but by the publishers of the latter.

Today Apple got back to me and weren’t having any of it – which is sad a loss to all of us. They also had a problem with the title “Columbo for iOS” and suggested I use something else. I’ve decided to rename the apps Columbo Episode Guide and Monk Episode Guide respectively.

So here’s my plan to bring you these apps: I will re-write the code so that instead of the images, I’ll include placeholder images, just saying “Season 1”, “Season 2”, etc. I will then include an option which lets you upload your own images instead.

I know this is inconvenient – but it’s a way to get the app approved and onto your devices.

If you have any suggestions on this please let me know in a comment below.

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