Does Apple own any rights to software you create with their developer tools?

Or do you own the rights to any software you create, regardless of whether you used tools supplied by a third party?

3 Answers 3


You own the rights to the work that you have done. However if you create something that incorporates works created by a third party, then final software may have multiple copyright interests.

Some ways that the output can include works created by a third party would be that you've linked to third party libraries (wizards might have done this for you), you used a compiler that injects proprietary code into the output (there are a number of legitimate reasons that compilers may do this), or your final program output is a virtual machine image that incorporates other people's work (this tends to happen with image-based languages like Lisp and SmallTalk).

As a general rule, if any tool that you are using has the potential to inject some external copyright interest, it is in their interest as well as yours to make you aware of the issue. Therefore the licenses for the tools that you are using should raise the issue if it exists, and make you aware of the obligations that they feel you should have. Given that the tools you are using are intended for developing software, they are likely to make it easy to get around likely issues. Note that such licenses may come with lots of restrictions that protects someone else's interests. See http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-MY/Vsexpressvb/thread/7887e35a-d746-41a6-892b-22384c2278e9 for a realistically complicated example.

Note, I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. If you have any concerns after reviewing the licenses for the tools that you are using, I strongly advise you to consult a lawyer.


You own the rights to software you create. The XCode Tools and SDK License should be online at http://developer.apple.com, or can be found in /Developer/Documentation (at least pre-XCode 4); I see no attempt to claim rights to any code created with XCode or the Mac or iPhone SDKs, and I would expect that there wouldn't be a while lot of commercial software for either if it did try to claim such.

  • 1
    however, Apple is known for changing their terms and conditions for products retroactively after the fact to give themselves a bigger piece of the pie. They've just done so for any content sold through iPad apps for example, are now claiming 30% of the cover price on anything (which happens to be the same they'd get if you sold the content through the appstore).
    – jwenting
    Mar 14, 2011 at 8:02
  • Retroactively claiming ownership of someone else's code = lawsuit they would be certain to lose.
    – geekosaur
    Mar 14, 2011 at 8:11
  • @jwenting: They aren't doing that retroactively, they're changing the rules to cover what they see as an abuse (correctly or not). Similarly, if your license isn't time-limited or anything, you can just keep using what you've already got. There's no guarantee that future versions will have the same terms, but that's true of every software that isn't copylefted with the copyrights held by lots of people, and there's no guarantee there will be another version of anything. XCode is in no more danger of having bad license terms than Visual Studio. Mar 14, 2011 at 14:27

Any tools will come with a license. To my (reasonably good) knowledge, there is no license for any Apple tools that gives any rights to your works to Apple.

There are license restrictions for eBooks created with iBooks Author (I think you are only allowed to sell eBooks created with iBooks Author on the app store, but you can give them away for free), but that only applies to the output of the software; they have no rights to your input.

There will be restrictions if you add Apple supplied fonts to your software, or the output of the text-to-speech converter.