Way back in 1933, a U.S. judge ruled that James Joyce's classic Ulysses wasn't obscene. That didn't stop Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) from nearly banning a new adaptation of it from the iPad. Although Apple quickly reversed its decision, its tendency to censor content could cause the company trouble down the road.

Apple initially rejected an app presenting a graphic novel version of Joyce's novel, Ulysses Seen, that featured one illustration of a semi-naked goddess. This isn't the first time that Apple has shown a censorious bent in its mobile app approvals -- heck, it isn't even the first time this week. Apple also rejected a graphic novel adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest for several panels in which two gay characters envisioned racy (but not entirely explicit) scenarios involving one another.

In both cases, Apple reversed its decisions after drawing mockery and criticism from the media. Still, it's one thing to eradicate pornography from the iPhone and iPad, and another to turn yourself into a digital Big Brother. Other gaffes include its removal of a dictionary app last fall because of "objectionable" words. Next thing you know, Apple might lump images of the Venus de Milo or Michelangelo's David into that broad, vague category.

Perhaps Apple's the one being objectionable here. For one thing, a few pixilated private parts might be the only thing that ever lures most folks anywhere close to reading Joyce's Ulysses. More importantly, users fed up with Apple's Puritanical zeal for avoiding offensive content might flee to other, less restrictive options such as Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android phones. And I'm pretty sure Apple investors would find that objectionable.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. In the spirit of the Fool's disclosure policy, Alyce has never read Ulysses.