How many times have you clicked Agree when you saw a message asking if you had read and agreed to Apple’s terms and conditions without so much as glancing at them?

We assume that you have better things to do then spend time ploughing through Apple's lengthy legal documents, especially since the Apple Media Services Ts&Cs stretch to 12 A4 pages (if you were to print them out). The length and boring nature of the legal documents has inspired an episode of south park and a comic book (as see in the picture above).

Faced with such a lengthy and boring document it’s likely that you click on Agree without a second thought. But due to a law passed in 2000, when you select ‘Agree’ it serves as an electronic signature, so clicking or tapping on Agree is as legally binding as signing your own signature.

Would you be so quick to agree to it if you knew the what was in the document? While Apple’s a trustworthy company, unlikely to be attempting to swindle you, there is still good reason to pay some attention to the Ts&Cs. Here are a couple of reasons why you might want to:

Are you choosing between two products? Before you make your purchase check the Ts&Cs to see what might happen if something goes wrong. Would the legal document you are about to sign mean that you wouldn’t get a replacement device? Is there some small print stating that Apple doesn’t have to support the product in the future.

Another reason to give the terms some attention is in case your privacy could be infringed.

In a blog post, anti-virus industry expert Graham Cluley writes: “Everyone should be more diligent about checking T&Cs and ensuring that they are comfortable with them. If we all did that... who knows? Maybe we'd not only stumble across the occasionally humorous clause, but also see something that rings privacy alarm bells.”

Is there anything to ring alarm bells in Apple’s terms and conditions? Read on to find out whether you should accept Apple’s terms and conditions.

What are Apple's Terms & Conditions

  • Long
  • Boring
  • Difficult to read
  • Legally binding

Let’s face it, Apple’s terms and conditions are boring, but they are also legally binding and that is a reason to pay them some attention.

You might trust that Apple isn’t asking you to sign away the right to park on your drive way, but would you be happy to agree to Apple knowing when you are at home, but also everywhere else you go with your iPhone?

Would you be happy to agree that you are buying the right to use software, but not the software itself, and that if Apple (or another developer) decides to stop making and supporting it then you can’t complain if the software suddenly stops working.

For example, imagine you had invested in Apple’s now discontinued photo library management tool Aperture. A look at the fine print indicates that Apple hadn’t promised to develop the software indefinitely. There's a section in the terms that says Apple can change, suspend or remove any product or content that it chooses.

Apple doesn’t purposely make its terms and conditions long and boring and difficult to read. In theory it could shorten them, or summarise them, or pull out a few bullet points at the beginning to let you know if something has changed since you were last confronted with them. But if it was to do so someone could argue in court that insufficient emphasis was placed on something buried further down in the document. And Apple doesn’t want that to happen.

The terms and conditions are really to protect Apple from legal action against it should you be unsatisfied with the product, or if the product causes some sort of injury to befall a customer. In addition, the terms are designed to protect Apple’s property from being used, or distributed, illegally.

What am I agreeing to when I agree to Apple's Ts&Cs?

Apple has more than one set of terms and conditions. On the legal section of its website you will find Software License Agreements, iPad, iPhone and iPod touch Terms & Conditions, Application Software Licences, and the Apple Media Services Terms and Conditions, amongst others.

The latter set of terms and conditions is the one associated with iTunes and one of the most frequently agreed to. We summarise the main points in that, at that as well as the main points in Apple’s legal documents related to MacOS below.

What's in the iTunes Terms & Conditions?

The Ts&Cs you are most likely to have agreed to are the iTunes Terms and Conditions, properly referred to as the Apple Media Services Terms and Conditions since it was updated and renamed in September 2016.

The iTunes terms and conditions were notorious for being so long that nobody reads them. So much so that there is even a South Park episode dedicated to imaginary consequences we could be signing up to. You can watch it for £2.49 on iTunes here.

The good news is that over the years Apple does appear to have condensed the document, in the past it has stretched to 56 pages. The now 7,135 word Apple Media Services Ts&Cs can be found here (US and UK).

Apple’s media services include the iTunes Store, App Store, iBooks Store, Apple Music, and Apple News. Here’s what you are agreeing to:

You have the right to choose to cancel your order, and you may do so within 14 days from when you received your receipt without giving any reason.

You require an Apple ID to use the services and access your content and Apple isn’t responsible if it should get into the wrong hands. “Your Apple ID is valuable, and you are responsible for maintaining its confidentiality and security. Apple is not responsible for any losses arising from the unauthorized use of your Apple ID,” states the document.

As long as you aren’t using Apple’s services and content for commercial purposes or breaking copyright, you shouldn’t get into any trouble.

Apple stipulates that you can only use “Content from up to five different Apple IDs on each device”, and that you can use DRM-protected content on only five computers, and any number of devices you sync from those computers.

It is “your responsibility not to lose, destroy, or damage Content once downloaded”. So make sure you back up because Apple isn’t promising to replace everything if you lose it. Apple does go on to specify that: “You may be able to redownload previously acquired Content (“Redownload”) to your devices that are signed in with the same Apple ID,” but “Content may not be available for Redownload if that Content is no longer offered on our Services.”

A clause that may be of interest if you are considering jailbreaking your device, is the one that stipulates that: “You may access our Services only using Apple’s software, and may not modify or use modified versions of such software”.

Still burning CDs of your music collections? That’s ok by Apple, as long as you make no more than seven copies of any DRM-protected content. If the content is DRM-free burn away - but note that you will still be subject to local copyright laws. One thing you mustn’t do is burn iBooks Store content to disk.

If you have signed up for Apple Music you can access it on 10 devices (although only 5 of them can be computers). Before you think that means you and your friends can all share the same membership, hold your horses: an “individual Apple Music membership allows you to stream on a single device at a time.” If you have a family membership your family members are able to stream on up to six devices at a time, according to the terms.

Some apps and services are paid for on a subscription basis, and Apple explains in the Ts&Cs that “if required” it will “seek your consent to continue,” if the price of a paid subscription increases. Which could mean that the price can increase without you being made aware.

Does Apple have rights to the content you upload to its services? When you sign the Ts&Cs you grant Apple “a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, nonexclusive license to use the materials you submit within the Services and related marketing.” These services include the submission of “comments, pictures, videos, and podcasts (including associated metadata and artwork).” So effectively Apple could use a podcast you created, or your photography, in its own marketing.

What Apple is more likely to do with its access rights is “remove or edit any submitted material.” The document includes Submission Guidelines, specifying that you shouldn’t upload any content that you don’t have permission to use; that is unlawful or harmful; personal or private to another person; misrepresentative of your affiliation with another person; or illegal, fraudulent or manipulative. It also indicates that the services shouldn’t be used to “request personal information from a minor” or “post or transmit spam”.

The following clause in the Family Sharing section may be of interest if you are wondering what might happen to a family member’s content after they die: “When a Family member leaves or is removed from the Family, the remaining Family members may no longer be able to access the former member’s Content, including Content acquired with the Organizer’s payment method.” We have this article about what happens to a relative’s iTunes content after they die.

Another thing to note about Family Sharing - you can only belong to one family at a time and all family members need to share the same home country.

One area of the terms where Apple has got some flack in the past, is for forcing users to accept that it will study the content of their media library in order to make recommendations.

Apple makes it clear that this is something you can opt out of in your account settings, and that in some cases recommendation features will ask for your permission before they are turned on. But if you do use them then you are giving Apple permission to “collect and store certain data, including but not limited to data about your device activity, location, and usage.”

In other words, you are giving Apple permission to assess what you do on your device and where you were when you were doing it.

When it comes to App Store apps, Apple emphasises that “The App Provider of any Third Party App is solely responsible for its content, warranties, and claims that you may have related to the Third Party App.” In other words, Apple is only the agent providing the App Store, not in any way responsible for the content of the app.

Related to that point, “Apple is responsible for providing maintenance and support for Apple Apps only, or as required under applicable law. App Providers are responsible for providing maintenance and support for Third Party Apps.” So don’t expect Apple to fix a problem with a third party app.

Here’s something that might interest you: “Apps made available through the App Store are licensed, not sold, to you.” So you can’t distribute it or make it available to others, and if you were to sell the device to someone else “you must remove the Licensed Application from the Apple Device before doing so”

When you ‘purchase’ an app, you are also agreeing to “Consent to Use of Data”. This means the licensor may collect data about your device, software, and peripherals. Apple reassures that the data cannot be used to “personally identify you”, and obviously it’s intended to be used to improve the products and services.

No promises are being made that the service or app can be used error-free, or that it will not be subject to attack, viruses, or hacking. Nor is Apple responsible for any loss of income, or loss of or corruption of data caused by the app.

However, the developer of the app is liable if it commits fraud, gross negligence, or causes death or personal injury by negligence.

One clause that has got some attention in the past is the one where Apple stipulates that: “You also agree that you will not use these products for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture, or production of nuclear, missile, or chemical or biological weapons.” So you can’t use a Mac to design a missile.

Buried near the bottom of the document: “Apple further reserves the right to modify, suspend, or discontinue the Services (or any part or Content thereof) at any time with or without notice to you, and Apple will not be liable to you or to any third party should it exercise such rights.” It will at least attempt to “warn you in advance of any modification, suspension or discontinuance of the Service”.

The document notes that: “Termination of the Service will not affect the Content that you have already acquired. However, you may be unable to authorise additional computers to use the Content.” Which suggests that you would not be able to download any iTunes or App Store content that it no longer available, for example.

Apple doesn’t promise that it’s services will be “uninterrupted or error-free”, or “free from loss, corruption, attack, viruses, interference, hacking, or other security intrusion”, it may “remove the Service for indefinite periods of time, or cancel the Services”.

Apple isn’t liable for any refund or compensation unless it is due to “fraud, gross negligence, wilful misconduct, or for death or personal injury”.

Apple also makes sure it’s not liable for any problems with financial transactions here: “Risk of loss for all electronically delivered Transactions pass to the acquirer upon electronic transmission to the recipient. No Apple employee or agent has the authority to vary this Agreement.”

Thinking by reading this summary you have it covered? “Apple reserves the right at any time to modify this Agreement and to add new or additional terms or conditions on your use of the Services.”

What's in Apple's Software License Agreement?

When it comes to software, there are a number of different Terms and Conditions available on Apple’s website here. You’ll find the Ts&Cs for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, the Operating System Ts&Cs, Application Software Licences, and legal documents relating to the Apple TV, iPod and Apple Watch.

Apple’s Software Licence Agreement for macOS Sierra is likely another one you are likely to have agreed to recently. You can read that here.

When you install Sierra you agree to the terms of the software licence agreement, a 7,135 word, 13 page document, which, like the Services Licence Agreement, was last updated on 13 September 2016.

At the top of the document it states in capitals (which is supposed to have the effect of drawing attention to the points, but it seems to have the effect of making it harder to read) that if you don’t agree to the terms and you have just purchased a Mac then: “You must return the entire hardware/software package in order to obtain a refund.”

Apple indicates that the software is licensed, not sold, to you and that it can only be used under the terms of the license. The company emphasises that the software is licensed to be used only on Apple-branded hardware

Apple specifies that it may make updates to the software, and that those updates may not include all the existing software features. Elements of the software updates may be unavailable to older Apple-branded hardware.

If you downloaded the software from the Mac App Store you are “granted a limited, non- transferable, non-exclusive license.” This means you can download and run one copy of the software on each Apple-branded computer you own (as long as it’s for non-commercial use).

If the software is provided by your employer (or an educational institution) then it can be installed on all the Macs your employer controls.

Two additional copies of the software can be run within virtual operating system environments, as long as the computer is already running the Apple software. In other words, you can’t run MacOS in a virtual environment on a Windows or Linux machine, at least not legally. Read: How to install macOS on a PC.

It’s a long document, so we won’t summarise it all, but we’ll draw your attention to some parts that are more significant below:

Fonts: you can use all the fonts included with the software, but you can only embed fonts in content if that is permitted by the embedding restrictions accompanying the font. You can find those in the Font Book app.

Photos: The Photos app may not support all video and photo formats. Synchronising your photos might result in loss of data.

Backup copy: You can make one copy of the Apple Software for back up purposes.

Open Source: Some elements of Apple Software are available to the Open Source community and can be modified. Apple says that if your Apple hardware is damaged as a result of such modifications then it is excluded from the hardware warranty.

Automatic Updates: You agree to let Apple download and install automatic updates onto you computer and peripherals. This is set by default, but you can turn it of in System Preferences.

Transfer of software: You can make a “one-time permanent transfer” of all your licence rights to the software preinstalled on your Mac. You can’t retain any copies of the software. In other words, if you sell on your Mac the software that came with it can be exchanged with it, you can’t keep a copy of any of it for yourself.

Consent to use of data: “When you use iMessage, Apple may hold your messages in encrypted form for a limited period of time in order to ensure their delivery”. Plus: “Diagnostics & Usage, Location Services, Siri, Dictation and Spotlight may require information from your computer to provide their respective functions,”. When you use these features you will see details of what information is being sent to Apple and how it might be used.

Maps: Apple’s Maps features may vary according to region. Location-based features, such as traffic information may be sent to Apple - including the “real-time geographic location of your computer”. Apple says that the location and usage data cannot be used to personally identify you. Apple indicates that you can disable the location-based functionality but that certain Maps features will be unavailable if you do so.

Also regarding Maps: “Location data provided by any Services, including the Apple Maps service, is provided for basic navigational and/or planning purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon in situations where precise location information is needed.” Which basically means, if you die because the Maps information was erroneous, inaccurate, or incomplete it’s not Apple’s fault.

Apple doesn’t promise that the software or services will be compatible with third party software - indeed it states that “Installation of this Apple Software may affect the availability and usability of this party software and other Apple products and services. Nor does it promise that defects in Apple’s software or services will be corrected.

In fact, it notes that Apple Software and Services are not intend or suitable for use in situations or environments where “Errors or inaccuracies… could lead to death, personal injury, or severe physical or environmental damage”.

MacOS can’t be used for “The operation of nuclear facilities, aircraft navigation or communication systems, air traffic control systems, life support machines or weapons systems,” in case you were wondering.

Nor is Apple responsible for anything “arising out of or related to you use or inability to use the Apple software or services or any third party software or applications.” So make sure you get training if you don’t know how to use Apple’s software.

And if Apple is in any way liable for personal injury, despite all the clauses that suggest it isn’t, its liability will not exceed $50.

As with the Media Ts&Cs, the software terms states that you cannot use the Apple Software for “the development, design, manufacture or production of missiles, nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.”

A final addition to the terms is a section on Apple Pay, where Apple says that “You are solely responsible for maintaining the security of your Supported Devices and the applicable passcodes.”

Is there anything funny in Apple's Ts&Cs

There was a fake story circulating that suggested that an Apple Legal employee had inserted some text into the terms and conditions in reaction to the fact that nobody actually read them. That’s a fake, but it hasn’t stopped people looking for humour inside the sleep inducing documents.

Aside from the Southpark episode we mentioned earlier, there is a comic adaption of the “the monstrously and infamously dense legal document, iTunes Terms and Conditions, the contract everyone agrees to but no one reads”.

For $15 you can purchase an 94 page unauthorized adaption of Apple’s iTunes legal document. Artist R. Sikoryak comic stars a Steve Jobs-like character rendered in the style of everything from Superman and X-Men to Garfield and Scott Pilgrim. 

Like most of us, Sikoryak had never read the document: “I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into, but I did think it would be unlikely, and I like the idea of incongruous subject matter.”
You can buy a copy of his version of the Terms and Conditions here.

Perhaps it’s the reason why Apple has amended the original lengthy document that attracted so much scorn.

(Please note, we aren't legal experts here! If you require legal advice about any Apple documents please speak to a lawyer!)