iPhone OS 3.0 Brings New Legal Terms on Microtransactions, Age Rating for Apps

Now that 3.0 OS for the Apple iPhone has launched, it has opened the door to a plethora of new possibilities for mobile game developers. Among the myriad of new features are push notifications, voice chat, support for custom hardware accessories, in-game micropayments, and even a new rating system.

With the new software came some legal changes as well, stemming mainly from the arrival of microtransactions. Though most people do not read the Terms and Conditions when they download items from iTunes, they have in fact changed with the most recent update.

To date, there are three legal changes within the new terms. The first two don’t focus on 3.0, but were probably needed nonetheless. The first addresses the management of services from other devices such as the PC, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The second is merely a clarification on proprietary information owned by iTunes and its licensors.

The third concerns in-app purchases. Essentially, it states that virtual items may only be downloaded once and are not transferable between devices. Here is the official documentation:

“Certain Products may include functionality that enables you to purchase additional services, or licenses to additional functionality or content for use within the Product (“In App Purchases”). In App Purchases that are consumed during the use of the Product (e.g., virtual ammunition) cannot be transferred among devices; can only be downloaded once; and after being downloaded, they cannot be replaced.

Once a consumable In App Purchase is purchased and received by you, iTunes’ liability to you in the event of any loss or destruction of, or damage to, such In App Purchase shall be as set forth in clause 28 hereof. All In App Purchases are deemed Products, and In App Purchases made within Third Party Products are deemed Third Party Products, and treated as such, for purposes of these terms and conditions.”

Beyond legal changes, the 3.0 update also came with a new feature that allows games and applications to be rated by age. This, in turn, allows for the restriction of access to certain apps with the limitations of “No Apps,” 4+, 9+, 12+, 17+, and “All Apps.” Furthermore, the restrictions can also be put in place for in-app purchases.

According to Kotaku.com, both the ESA and ESRB have been pushing for the ratings of games on the Apple platforms for awhile. The ratings will go through Apple itself, with a sort of self-policing policy for developers. However, should the ESRB push hard enough and rate games themselves, it poses an interesting question: Will this extra bit of red tape slow the growth of the mobile devices enough to adversely affect them?

[images via Kotaku]