Monday, March 25, 2002

Continuing the topic of Minors participating with Apple's ADC and Darwin programs, I found a very interesting discussion.
10:39:25 PM    

Ahhh... it seems I screwed up (Noggin is targeted solely at 9-12 year olds and, as such, falls entirely under COPPA-- I was under the impression from discussion with Noggin that COPPA applied to all minors. My bad.)

As multiple folks have pointed out [thanks], COPPA only applies to children under 13. Finlay beats that by 2 years at the ripe old age of 15. (BTW: If you want to see a really ugly web site, visit the FTC's Kidz Privacy site.

So-- COPPA does not apply. How does that change things?

First, because Finlay is a minor [as defined by US law which, apparently, governs the relationship between Finlay and Apple until some court says otherwise], he still can't personally execute the various contracts-- both directly and implied-- required to participate in either ADC or as a contributor to Darwin.

It would appear that it is possible for Finlay's parent/legal guardian to execute the contracts on his behalf.

Unfortunately, there would still need to be some modification to the Apple supplied contracts/agreements for this to be possible. As well, there is still the question of ensuring that Apple is not vulnerable to undo liability if a minor's guardian/parent were to rescind the agreement at a later date under the guise that some set of contributions fell outside the bounds of the original agreement (from what I understand, there is a gray area such that the parent/guardian is given some bit of leeway to effectively yank the rights to previously contributed content because their kid submitted something without their approval).

(eating crow)
9:43:26 PM    

Cool. Just noticed that Simson Garfinkel's SBook application (the best contact/notes management app on the planet) can export contacts directly to my iPod. I had previously written some code to export CodeFab's Contact Database as XML compatible with SBook. Now I have all of my contacts on my iPod.
1:52:33 PM    

Finlay Dobbie published an article about how Apple effectively does not allow minors-- folks under 18-- to participate in the Apple Developer Program or contribute changes to the Darwin project.

Unfortunately, Apple's policy is a reflection of the legal status of minors within the US. The policy is largely out of Apple's control!

The problem stems from the whole COPA/COPPA [Children's Online Protection Act which morphed into Children's Online Privacy Protection Act or something like that] related set of laws.

I actually have a bunch of pertinent technical experience related to COPA/COPPA in that CodeFab built much of the back end engine used by the site including the editorial tools used to manage content produced by minors.

Basically, if you are under 18, you are deemed a minor and you do not have the legal authority to sign contracts, cannot publish or contribute content that falls under another party's copyright/ownership, and are otherwise severely restricted in a legal fashion.

In other words, Apple cannot directly allow you to participate either as a Darwin contributor or as an ADC member because there is no legal way for you to effectively 'sign' the contracts required to be a member.

While Apple could extend the program such that your parents or legal guardians could give permission for your participation-- effectively signing for you-- that would not actually be enough for you to participate in the programs. In particular, for content produced by a minor to be published in a forum visible to others, several criteria must be met:

  • Parental consent must be obtained at least once.
  • Every piece of content must be reviewed prior to being made available within a forum outside of the company that effectively 'owns' the content (in this case, Apple).
  • If the parent's ever rescind the permission to use content, it must be possible to effectively "unpublish" the content. Imagine the implications within a CVS repository of, say, having to remove the changes in version 1.5 of a file that is now at revision 1.24...?
  • When a piece of content produced by a minor is actually published, it must be published in a fashion that effectively hides the identity of the source. This part is fairly fuzzy in that it is hard to hide identity when a username is the user's actual name... but the law was not exactly created by folks totally familiar with technology.

The bottom line is that Apple's -- and other companies -- hands are tied in this. They would have to put forth a tremendous amount of effort to make it possible for minors to participate. Even then, a minor could not participate in the full fashion and there is still implied liability.

If you are in this position, your best bet is to have a parent/guardian sign up for the ADC account. As far as Darwin contributions are concerned, it will likely have to be done through some other resource who is of majority age.
1:28:50 PM