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FSF Asks Apple To Comply With the GPL For Clone of GNU Go 482

Posted by timothy
from the y'know-fellas-the-license dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "The Free Software Foundation has discovered that an application currently distributed in Apple's App Store is a port of GNU Go. This makes it a GPL violation, because Apple controls distribution of all such programs through the iTunes Store Terms of Service, which is incompatible with section 6 of the GPLv2. It's an unusual enforcement action, though, because they don't want Apple to just make the app disappear, they want Apple to grant its users the full freedoms offered by the GPL. Accordingly, they haven't sued or sent any legal threats and are instead in talks with Apple about how they can offer their users the GPLed software legally, which is difficult because it's not possible to grant users all the freedoms they're entitled to and still comply with Apple's restrictive licensing terms."
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FSF Asks Apple To Comply With the GPL For Clone of GNU Go

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  • Re:Wrong People (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:10PM (#32352550)

    No, it's because of Apple's licensing restrictions.

  • Re:Wrong People (Score:4, Informative)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:15PM (#32352590)
    No, because Apple is the problem. If Wal-Mart didn't let the router company include a source CD with the router, you'd go after Wal-Mart along with the router company. The developers of this app I have little doubt want to comply with the GPL but Apple won't let them, a bit like Wal-Mart prohibiting the inclusion of source code.
  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:15PM (#32352600)

    If I were Apple, I would just pull the app and call it done.

    They already did [apple.com]

  • Re:Fat Chance (Score:5, Informative)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:20PM (#32352676)

    Apple will pull the app from the store LONG before they allow actual open software to slip through their stranglehold on content.

    My understanding is that to comply, Apple would just have to remove the clause that says if you create an app with their SDK you can't distribute that same version elsewhere, as that is what conflicts with the GPL. So all they'd have to do is add an exception for GPL apps and it would be of no real detriment to Apple. They probably will not, but they certainly could.

    You wouldn't know it from the summary, but mostly, this is an issue with some people taking a GPL app and violating the license and in the process authorizing Apple to redistribute and violate the license as well in the process. It's really no different from someone submitting a closed source app they don't have license to to Apple's app store.

  • by pavon (30274) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:20PM (#32352678)

    From the press release:

    The upstream developers for this port are also violating the GPL, and we are discussing this with them too. We are raising the issue with Apple as well since Apple is the one that distributes this software to the public; legally, both parties have the responsibility to comply with the GPL.

    They are both responsible, but Apple is the only one that can change their licensing terms to make it legal to release GPL software for the iPhone. Since the FSF would prefer that option over having the application removed from the store, contacting Apple and letting them choose the path forward is the pragmatic and diplomatic thing to do.

  • No Kidding (Score:5, Informative)

    by pavon (30274) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:24PM (#32352752)

    Reality:

    In most ways, this is a typical enforcement action for the FSF: we want to resolve this situation as amicably as possible. We have not sued Apple, nor have we sent them any legal demand that they remove the programs from the App Store.

    Slashdot:

    It's an unusual enforcement action, though, because they don't want Apple to just make the app disappear, they want Apple to grant its users the full freedoms offered by the GPL.

  • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:26PM (#32352774)

    Indeed, they have already taken the app down because it is a GPL violation. There are other GPL apps on the store though that are in compliance, with the source available via developer website linked within the app - it's not a fundamental incompatibility with the app store, it seems to be a developer issue.

  • Re:Fat Chance (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mike Buddha (10734) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:27PM (#32352788)

    RTFL. The distributor is the one responsible for complying with the GPL. Or rather, the entity that conveys the binary is responsible, ie Apple.

  • by greed (112493) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:29PM (#32352810)

    Apple's Developer Agreement for the iPhone SDK explicitly specified that your application must comply with open-source license terms.

    So if someone puts up a GPL application on the App Store without the source, they're not just in violation of the GPL, they're also in violation of Apple's terms.

    From http://adcdownload.apple.com/iphone/iphone_sdk_3.2__final/iphone_sdk_agreement.pdf [apple.com], "3.3.16 If Your Application includes any FOSS, You agree to comply with all applicable FOSS licensing terms. You also agree not to use any FOSS in the development of Your Application in such a way that would cause the non-FOSS portions of the SDK to be subject to any FOSS licensing terms or obligations."

    In part, obviously, this is to keep someone from trying to lever open Apple's code with an FOSS license. But they've written it so that it also protects FOSS users and developers. It reads, to me, a lot like the GPL clause that says, "if you can't follow all these rules, you can't distribute the software."

  • Re:GPL Question (Score:3, Informative)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:31PM (#32352828) Homepage Journal

    Apple store apps transfer from device to device. I can also delete the app and download it again as often as I like.

  • by pavon (30274) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:34PM (#32352858)

    The GPLv2 [gnu.org] section 6 states

    6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein. You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to this License.

    The iTunes Store Terms of Service [apple.com] section 10b states:

    b. Use of Products. You acknowledge that Products (other than the iTunes Plus Products) contain security technology that limits your usage of Products to the following applicable Usage Rules, and, whether or not Products are limited by security technology, you agree to use Products in compliance with the applicable Usage Rules.

    Usage Rules
    (i) Your use of the Products is conditioned upon your prior acceptance of the terms of this Agreement.
    (ii) You shall be authorized to use the Products only for personal, noncommercial use.
    (iii) You shall be authorized to use the Products on five Apple-authorized devices at any time, except in the case of Movie Rentals, as described below. ...

    Therefore distributing through the iTunes Store adds restrictions on use that are prohibited by the GPL.

  • by gbrayut (715117) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:35PM (#32353714) Homepage

    Jailbreaking an iPhone constitutes copyright infringement and a DMCA violation, says Apple in comments filed with the Copyright Office as part of the 2009 DMCA triennial rulemaking. This marks the first formal public statement by Apple about its legal stance on iPhone jailbreaking.

    Link to full article on EFF [eff.org]

  • Re:Fat Chance (Score:3, Informative)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:35PM (#32353718)

    If Apple has distributed something derived from GPL'd code, without complying with the terms of the GPL, then they are liable for copyright infringement (for profit, potential large statutory fine).

    Actually, you can't claim damages beyond what you can prove you lost as a result of copyright infringement unless you notify the offending party first and they do not stop the copying. Since Apple did, no large fines unless there are some weird new laws I haven't heard about.

  • by Andorin (1624303) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:39PM (#32353756)
    That link requires iTunes and I'm on Linux, you insensitive clod!
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:42PM (#32353782)

    So if Best Buy sold you a disk with GPL breaking code, you can sue Best Buy for distribution?

    Probably not since, given the doctrine of first sale, Best Buy doesn't need a copyright license to distribute a physical copy they have purchased in good faith from a vendor, so they don't need the GPL's permission to sell their copy.

    Apple, OTOH, is transmitting a new digital copy to each purchaser, which does require either a legal privilege that trumps copyright (e.g., fair use, which pretty clearly doesn't apply here) or permission from the copyright holder. Insofar as the FSF is the holder of copyright in material included in an app on the App Store, and licenses it only under the GPL, the GPL is the only basis on which Apple can claim to have the required permission.

  • Re:Fat Chance (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:43PM (#32353796)

    But only the copyright owners (those listed in AUTHORS) have legal standing to sue over copyright infringement.

    Who do you suppose owns the copyright on GNU Go? Hint: It's three letters:
    http://git.savannah.gnu.org/cgit/gnugo.git/tree/patterns/compress_fuseki.c [gnu.org]

  • Re:Fat Chance (Score:4, Informative)

    by PitaBred (632671) <.gro.sndnyd.derbatip. .ta. .todhsals.> on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:16PM (#32354206) Homepage

    Really? Seems a lot of people that I've switched to Open Office are VERY happy that they don't have to pay $300 for an office suite to type up reports, especially since the interface is more familiar to them than the Office 2003 and later interfaces.

  • Re:Fat Chance (Score:3, Informative)

    by DMalic (1118167) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @07:12PM (#32354852)
    I can't distribute a popular (or even an unpopular) major movie and claim I don't know someone held the copyright to it. Ignorance of copyright law is not an excuse.
  • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @07:14PM (#32354882) Homepage

    The FSF almost invariably tries to contact companies and take a non-litigious approach first.

    Quite right, the FSF has a history of contacting people first and silently arranging compliance [digitalcitizen.info].

    Their goal is to promote OSS and they can do that a lot better by contacting companies and convincing them to comply and contribute, rather than costing those companies cash out of pocket and making them scared of OSS in future.

    Actually the Free Software Foundation's goals have nothing to do with "OSS" (open source software) and should not be confused with that movement's goals. The FSF predates the open source movement, the Open Source Initiative, and the FSF is appropriately critical of the open source movement's goals [gnu.org]. People from the FSF (most notably Richard Stallman) are the principal authors of the GPLs, and Stallman makes a sharp distinction between the free software movement (which he founded) and the open source movement. You can find clear descriptions of that difference and practical consequences of that difference in almost any of his talks online or the essay I linked to.

  • Re:Fat Chance (Score:4, Informative)

    by HermMunster (972336) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @08:13PM (#32355592)

    Though you can buy that for $150 (for the home and student edition) you can't use it for commercial or business purposes. That means it is intended to be used for writing letters and doing school papers. Any use of it for commercial purposes violates the license. Since the license is so restrictive why not just use the free program that supports international standards?

    Your inability or unwillingness to learn to use Open Office aside, no pragmatic reasons exist for not using it for everything, even that which you state can't be achieved.

  • Re:Fat Chance (Score:3, Informative)

    by BKX (5066) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @10:19PM (#32357010) Journal

    I don't think you're right about that in this case. I love the doctrine of first sale, but this isn't covered. To buy the academic edition (student, teacher, whatever it's called nowadays) you have to certify that you're a student and agree to a non-transferable license for non-commercial use only. Or at least you did when I bought it.

  • Re:Fat Chance (Score:3, Informative)

    by FrangoAssado (561740) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:19PM (#32357470)

    Hey, great idea, I wonder how nobody thought of that before!

    Except they have. Section 5 of the GPL v2 explicitly notes that, besides the license, "nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program".

    If the GPL is null and void, Apple can't legally distribute the program.

  • Re:Quandry (Score:3, Informative)

    by dido (9125) <dido@im[ ]ium.ph ['per' in gap]> on Thursday May 27, 2010 @03:11AM (#32358826)

    In case you didn't read the summary, the project in question is GNU Go [gnu.org]. Just in case the 'GNU' before the project name didn't tip you off, the copyright blurb for that program is: 'Copyright 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 by the Free Software Foundation.' Yes, indeed the FSF actually writes code. Who woulda thunk? A snowball will freeze in hell before we see the FSF dual-license any of their own code just to make this sort of accommodation. They have been staunch idealists since 1984.

    I seem to remember that the FSF actually tangled with Steve Jobs before (in his NeXT days), and won [gnu.org], and so we have a Free Software Objective-C compiler:

    Consider GNU Objective C. NeXT initially wanted to make this front end proprietary; they proposed to release it as .o files, and let users link them with the rest of GCC, thinking this might be a way around the GPL's requirements. But our lawyer said that this would not evade the requirements, that it was not allowed. And so they made the Objective C front end free software.

    And so to this day Apple's developer suite includes a modified version of GCC, for which they provide the sources in compliance with the GPL.

    The FSF's motive in this action, as in everything they do, is the promotion of the Free Software ideology. They see it as an opportunity to get Apple to ease the draconian restrictions they impose on the App Store. Now, Apple is free to impose whatever restrictions it likes, but if they're not careful, they can step on other people like this. That's the downside to being platform dictator. Apple can possibly weasel around the GPL violation they seem to be guilty of by directing the action to the developer somehow. If they can't do this, and go to court, and lose (which is not outside the realm of possibility since they imposed additional restrictions in violation of section 6 of the GPLv2 which applies to GNU Go 3.6 and below, or section 10 of GPLv3 which applies to GNU Go 3.8), the FSF will have gotten a bunch of cash for their troubles. If Apple settles and eases restrictions, that would be even better for the FSF's mission. No one yet has been motivated enough to actually fight the FSF in court over a GPL violation, but if it comes to that Apple just might, given that what's at stake here is their business model for the App Store. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

  • Re:Fat Chance (Score:3, Informative)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday May 27, 2010 @08:04AM (#32360312)

    That's a good point. I was assuming it was a GPLv2 program but a little research shows it is GPLv3, at least right now.

  • by pavon (30274) on Thursday May 27, 2010 @10:45AM (#32362094)

    The definition of "Products" for the section I quoted does include software:

    1. Definition of the iTunes Store Service. Apple is the provider of the iTunes Store (the "Service") that permits you to purchase or rent (as applicable) digital content, such as sound recordings and videos (including movies and television shows), games, software, and ring tones, under certain terms and conditions as set forth in this Agreement. ...
    b. Security. You understand that the Service, and products transacted through the Service, such as sound recordings, videos (including movies and television shows), games, software, ring tones, and related artwork ("Products"), include a security framework using technology that protects digital information and limits your usage of Products to certain usage rules established by Apple and its licensors ("Usage Rules").

    You are correct that there is an additional license specific to the app store, so it is possible that this one only covers the old iPod games/software and not iPhone apps. I don't have a iPhone or App Store account so I'm not certain if the user has to accept both agreements, or just the one.

    Anyway, for completeness, the App Store terms of agreement [apple.com] has simular restrictions:

    b. Use of Products. You acknowledge that Products contain security technology that limits your usage of Products to the following applicable Usage Rules, and, whether or not Products are limited by security technology, you agree to use Products in compliance with the applicable Usage Rules.

    Usage Rules

    (i) Your use of the Products is conditioned upon your prior acceptance of the terms of this Agreement and the applicable end-user license agreement.

    (ii) You shall be able to store Products from up to five different Accounts on certain iPhone OS-based devices (including, but not limited to, iPad, iPod touch or iPhone), at a time.

    (iii) You shall be able to store Products on five iTunes-authorized devices at any time.

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