Apple is being sued
for copyright infringement over its diverse skin tone emojis, per Washington Post.
The year is 2013. Obama has just started his second term in office, Macklemore’s Thrift Shop is on loop in every radio station, and all the emojis in your phone are one color: bright yellow.
Texas-based Katrina Parrott saw an opportunity in this emoji uniformity and launched iDiversicons - an iPhone app that allowed users to copy/paste emojis with five distinct skin tones into their messages.
The app attracted initial success, with Apple inviting Parrott to Cupertino to discuss a possible collaboration.
Then success turned into heartbreak. Apple shunned Parrott, instead choosing to work with an internal team to incorporate its own diverse skin tone emojis. iDiversicons was left obsolete, and Parrott was left $200k in debt.
Now… Parrott is suing Apple for copyright infringement. A key quote from her lawyer:
- “The woman who was trying to improve inclusion gets excluded.”
But the case isn’t a slam-dunk. The fact Parrott came up with the idea first probably isn’t enough, given ideas aren’t generally copyrightable. Also – Apple’s emojis aren’t identical to Parrott’s.
The App Store isn’t a marketplace in the traditional sense. Or at all.
- Apple has complete reign over the apps it promotes, deletes, or blatantly copies – all while making app developers pay a tax.
The result? An uneven playing field that a) crushes app creators, whose ideas are easily copied and sidelined; b) confuses regulators, who find it hard to police a digital ecosystem where the rules are made by and for the benefit of one behemoth.