Users of Apple’s popular iPhone, iPad and iPod devices who have South African iTunes accounts have long been unable to buy certain content through Apple’s online store. Apple have given no indication that this will change any time soon.
The iTunes service, not to be confused with Apple’s media player and synchronisation software for Mac and Windows PCs, allows iPhone, iPad and iPod owners to buy media and applications and download it to their devices.
In the South African iTunes store however, no music, movies, TV shows or books are available. The whole “Games” category of iOS apps for iPod, iPhone, and iPad is also nowhere to be found.
South Africans have circumvented this restriction by registering US or Kenyan iTunes accounts.
With a US account, users without US credit cards have to buy iTunes Gift Cards from other online retailers and redeem them. Users also report that the Kenyan iTunes store allows them to buy apps with their South African credit cards, but doesn’t contain any music, movies, series or books.
A spokesperson for Core Group, official distributors of Apple products in South Africa, recently said that the restrictions on iTunes in South Africa aren’t likely to be lifted soon.
Answering questions at the official launch of their new iStore last week (30 June 2011), Core explained that iOS developers can choose whether they wish to sell their application in South Africa.
The cost of selling games in SA
Core reiterated that games offer a different challenge due to the classification requirements imposed by the Film and Publications Board (FPB) in South Africa.
According to the tariffs published on the Film and Publications Board website, distributors of “interactive computer games” and “mobile cellular and Internet content providers” must pay a registration fee of R924.
A fee of R1,508.64 must then be paid for the classification of every format of a game.
FPB willing to listen
Earlier this year, MyGaming reported that the FPB said that they have never refused to accept content to be rated for sale on iTunes. The FPB added that distributors have not formally approached them about issues they might have with classification and the costs thereof.
On the topic of games that sell for as cheap as $0.99, which may not be able to justify the costs of classification in SA, the FPB said that they encourage publishers and developers to approach them with conflicts between their business model and the classification model.
What about the unrated games on Steam and Android?
MyGaming also previously reported that Nicholas Hall from Michalsons Attorneys was of the opinion that digital distribution services need not submit content for rating if they are licensed and governed by ICASA.
Hall argued that games downloaded from Steam, an online video game store for Windows and Mac PCs, more than likely come from a local server at an ISP which is licensed by ICASA.
This argument may be extended to iTunes which, based on Hall’s argument, could be exempt from FPB requirements by hosting content servers in South Africa with suitably licensed ISPs.
This also gives platforms such as Steam (and iTunes) another easy way to become compliant, according to Hall: Get a license from ICASA.