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Jobs trying to block my book alleges author

Apple CEO out to gag unauthorised biography, apparently

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Steve Jobs may have joined the ranks of Rupert Murdoch, Richard Branson, Robert Maxwell and other captains of industry who have tried to gag - or been accused of trying to gag - authors attempting to write their unauthorised biographies.

According to MacCentral, Alan Deutschman, writer of the as yet unpublished The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, has alleged that Jobs is refusing to grant photo usage rights to Deutschman's publisher, Random House, in order to prevent the book from going on sale.

"Steve Jobs does not like the book and doesn't want the book published," the author told the Apple-watching Web site.

Or is it Jobs? A closer look suggests it might not be. The issue appears to be the usage (or not) of a picture of an iMac-wielding Jobs for the book's cover. If it's the same pic as the one used in the version of the cover that we've seen, the shot is one Apple has been offering on its Web site for some time. It's part of Apple's selection of stock shots that magazines, newspapers and (presumably) book publishers can download and use for free and you can see it here

According to MacCentral sources, the picture's snapper, Moshe Brakha, is claiming he never gave permission to photo agency Corbis Sygma (prop. Bill Gates) from whom Random House acquired the picture.

Apple's own usage license (in part) reads: "Apple Computer, Inc. grants accredited media full permission to reproduce or otherwise utilize entire photographs or part according to the following guidelines. Images cannot be used to promote or sell any product or technology, nor can they be used for advertising or inclusion in brochures or other sales materials."

If Random House isn't "accredited media", we don't know who is. But there is the clause about using the picture to "promote or sell any product", and since that's pretty what a book's cover image is all about, this is probably why Random House turned to Corbis Sygma rather than just download the hi-res photo from Apple's Web site.

To confuse matters Vanity Fair had planned to reproduce parts of the book - a standard cross-media promotional technique - in its October 2000 issue, but MacCentral's sources claim the magazine has now withdrawn from the deal. Vanity Fair's line appears to be that it no longer has the space, which is plausible but unlikely. With Deutschman's book due out on 12 September, an October-issue splash would make sense. However, if the books has been delayed, the magazine has little choice but to delay the feature. It's exclusive rights contract with Random House undoubtedly prevents it from saying precisely why.

The snag is, that the Vanity Fair move says nothing about why the book has been delayed, only that it has been.

Jobs is well known as something of a media control freak, going out of his way to ensure reporters given access to him and Apple's upcoming products really get the message, as you can tell if you read between the lines of BusinessWeek's recent article on Jobs, a remarkably balanced piece given how brown-nosed some of that magazine's articles can be.

Jobs might well not take too kindly to an unauthorised biography, particularly if the author appears hostile to both himself and Apple. Jobs likes publicity, but unlike his media-friendly chum Larry Ellison, it has to be on his terms. It's not known what stance Deutschman has taken toward Jobs' tenure at NeXT, Pixar and Apple, the three companies the his book covers.

That said, apart from making an issue over the photo rights, it's hard to see what Jobs can really do to limit the book's publicity, as Deutschman alleges. Random House's lawyers will presumably have given the book a green light, or it wouldn't have got as close to publication as it has.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a Random House spokeswoman admitted the company's boss, Peter Olson, was contacted by Jobs last week, but couldn't say what was discussed. It's hard to imagine the conversation didn't centre on the biography. ®

Read all The Register's Apple stories in our Mac Channel

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