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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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  • Fat Chance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dward90 (1813520) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:07PM (#32352502)
    Apple will pull the app from the store LONG before they allow actual open software to slip through their stranglehold on content.
  • Dumb Summary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:08PM (#32352522)

    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.

    Wow, they want Apple to actually follow the license? Bizarre ... what an unusual request! I don't know who wrote the app but if Apple wants to license crap through its stores, it better do the footwork to make sure that it can license what it is licensing. If Apple can't get the source code to the users and Apple was the one who distributed and re-licensed that software then I'd encourage any user with the app to sue for their right to also have access to the source code. Seems like a pretty straight forward license violation to me.

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:10PM (#32352548) Journal

    If I were Apple, I would just pull the app and call it done. Why bother mucking around with the GPL and the like? Why run the risk of having to deal with demands for access, etc?

    Just get rid of the app and make the problem go away.

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

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:11PM (#32352562)
    Very true. FSF should know better to say "Hey, you can't do that ... so why don't you start opening up your distribution practices rather than pull the app in question". They just fingered that app and it will be out in the cold before you can say "Oops!".
  • Re:Fat Chance (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:12PM (#32352574)

    That's the problem with FOSS. It seems to slip through most everybody's fingers.....

  • Re:Wrong People (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:16PM (#32352616)
    No. It's because of the App writer's disregard of the GPL in light of said Apple's licensing restrictions.
  • by Stumbles (602007) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:21PM (#32352704)
    If Apple cannot comply with the terms of the GPL then they are first in violation of the GPL terms and second, they are in the copyright violation arena. It is totally immaterial WHY they cannot comply. I am sure if Apple found a program in violation of their terms they would not afford the violator the same kindness they are currently being allowed.
  • Re:what?! no way. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:22PM (#32352718)

    What a software license breach and someone doesn't threaten with lawsuits and horse whippings?!

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

  • It seems to me that if the source code is available freely, than the license terms are fulfilled, but what do I know, I'm not a lawyer...

    No, no you are not. But this is really something that software developers who plan on reuse should know. From Section 6 of the GPLv2 [gnu.org]:

    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.

    Is Apple redistributing the Program or a derivative thereof? What's more they're relicensing it with a noncompliant license. I think we got a legitimate problem here ... If Apple wants to redistribute, they must provide a license to the consumer telling them how to obtain the source and notifying the consumer that they are free to copy, distribute or modify said Program (of course by the GPLv2 rules).

  • Re:Wrong People (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:23PM (#32352726)
    Such as?
  • Re:Wrong People (Score:4, Insightful)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:24PM (#32352746) Homepage Journal

    Wouldn't actually matter. The author's not the one distributing the app, Apple is the distributor. Therefore Apple requires a distribution license. The GPs debates of angels on pinheads notwithstanding, Wal-mart's situation with the router is not something I can comment upon, beyond pointing out it's not an acceptable analogy. Apple is copying the product and distributing those copies. Morally, legally, and in every other way possible, Apple must abide by the license.

  • Re:GPL Question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by radish (98371) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:25PM (#32352758) Homepage

    While the source is a problem, the bigger problem is that the GPL states that you're not allowed to prevent people from redistributing the binary. Can you transfer an app from your phone to another one without Apple trying to stop you? No.

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

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:28PM (#32352804) Journal

    Well, not exactly. The GPL is a distribution license. Without it, you may not copy the work at all, as per copyright law. That means that everyone in an electronic distribution chain must comply with the GPL, because each one is making a copy. Apple is making a copy of a copyrighted work every time that someone downloads something from the store.

    There is almost certainly a clause in the developer agreement saying that you will indemnify Apple against legal costs caused by distributing your app, but this is where it gets interesting. 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). They could then recoup this cost by suing the developer, but I imagine that the developer probably can't afford the fine and that the amount of bad press it would generate for Apple in the developer community would make it not worth their while.

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

    by kabloom (755503) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:30PM (#32352814) Homepage

    This sorta gotcha is why GPL developers prefer the GPL.

  • by watanabe (27967) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:30PM (#32352816)

    The EFF details some ways that suggest to me that Apple will never be able to be in compliance with the GPL under their current terms and conditions. For example: GPLv2, Section 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.

    From EFF's dissection of Apple's Agreement:

    Section 7.2 makes it clear that any applications developed using Apple's SDK may only be publicly distributed through the App Store, and that Apple can reject an app for any reason, even if it meets all the formal requirements disclosed by Apple. So if you use the SDK and your app is rejected by Apple, you're prohibited from distributing it through competing app stores like Cydia or Rock Your Phone.

    I am not a lawyer, but I would say that together these mean that Apple is in violation of the GPL if it distributes GPL code through its app store; it either needs to waive those terms in 7.2 (hah!) or outright ban GPL'ed code in the app store.

  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:32PM (#32352844)
    Do you really think that they should be able to get away with copyright infringement via a contract that does not involving the rights holder?

    Well then I have a contract with John Cantbefound who has been installing software and media on my computer for years. In the contract he specifies that he will not put material that I do not have rights to use onto my computer.
  • Re:Fat Chance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thundersnatch (671481) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:43PM (#32352994) Journal
    They could provide the source code by any means they wished. Why would they have to provide it "through the App store"? Read the license.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:52PM (#32353122)

    It's normal for the FSF, but abnormal in the litigation-happy world of copyright law.

    Do you think that the RIAA is in the habit of asking nicely? Or the MPAA? Or maybe we should compare this to the bad blood of Viacom v. YouTube?

    - I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property

  • Re:GPL Question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by david_thornley (598059) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:54PM (#32353152)

    The GPL says you have the right to redistribute. It doesn't say that other people have to help you do it. It was a case of having the right to do something (modify the software) but not the ability to benefit from it (by installing a modified version in a Tivo) that pushed the FSF into writing GPLv3.

  • Re:Wrong People (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:58PM (#32353210) Journal

    If you take $99/year to distribute a product which is routinely governed by rules on re-distribution, force a convoluted review process, sell from your storefront, and take a 30% cut of what you're selling, it most certainly is your responsibility to check the origin. Otherwise you've just provided a get-out clause to all fences in history: "How was I supposed to know it was stolen!? He told me he found it washed up on the beach! Would jewelry ever be stolen?"

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

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:01PM (#32353248) Journal

    the amount of bad press it would generate for Apple in the developer community would make it not worth their while.

    Why would that generate bad press? Apple was duped by an unscrupulous developer. A lawsuit is exactly what he deserves.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:09PM (#32353328)

    > What's preventing the developers from posting source on their web site like the other GPL apps on the app store?

    It's not about the source (though I can't remember if there's another restriction where Apple prevents even that). It's about the downstream users losing their right to redistribute the iPhone application due to restrictions in the iTunes ToS. See section 7.2, for example, which says that the app can only be distributed by Apple.

    Can't do that with OSS. Can't take away people's right to redistribute.

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

    by Svartalf (2997) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:12PM (#32353362) Homepage

    Ah... The problem is...the store's just as obligated as the developer. They distributed it. The GPL is a derivative works and publication/distribution license on whatever is protected by it.

    By selling the app, they're in a pickle. Much like Verizon was with the Actiontec routers with BusyBox in them that was just as non-compliant.

  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:12PM (#32353370)

    Do you really think that they should be able to get away with copyright infringement via a contract that does not involving the rights holder?

    Huh? The first part quoted says in legalese the the developer affirms that the submitted code is owned or controlled by the developer and that the distribution of the code does not violate the rights of any third party. The second part covers FOSS software namely that the developer will not do what he/she did in this particular case. That does get Apple off the hook. It's basic contract law.

    As an analogy, suppose you sell me a car but I don't have all the money. Under the sales agreement I provide you with a monthly payment until the full amount is settled. Then later I found out you stole the car. The agreement is void as you didn't have rights to sell the car. I don't have to pay you any monthly payment and if I am not obligated to return the car to you if I return the car to the local authorities. Can I be charged by the police with stolen property? No, because I believe you were the rightful owner and I complied with the law on stolen property.

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

    by Tetsujin (103070) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:22PM (#32353516) Homepage Journal

    This says it all:

    bukkit:~ bunky$ curl -s http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.txt [gnu.org] |wc -l
        339

    bukkit:~ bunky$ cat new_bsd_license.txt |wc -l
          8

    The consequences, I'm afraid, of writing a legal document, if you want it to accomplish anything at all.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:28PM (#32353606)
    Except that by obtaining the software through the apps store, they are agreeing to a license that stipulates that they can only use the software on a limited number of approved devices. That screams "GPL violation," although my understanding of the law might not be complete enough to make that assertion; at the very least, it is completely opposed to the spirit of the GPL.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:30PM (#32353640)

    Maybe because they didn't write the app, and it's not their responsibility to do so.

    It's likely that Apple didn't receive the GPL terms from the developer, and they cannot knowing agree to something unless it's be delivered to them. In short you cannot breach a contract you did not agree to. The actual breach occurred when the developer "distributed" the software to Apple w/o providing a way to fulfill the terms on their own (as required by Apple's contract with the developer. Apple then distributed something that they believed the developer had given them rights to w/o other strings attached. The developer is on the hook for this, not Apple.

    I would bet the FSF doesn't want this to actually go to court because they are very likely to lose, despite the feelings of the "I'm a nerd so I know how the law should work, but am not lawyer" crowd on /.

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

    by Dragonslicer (991472) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:34PM (#32353702)

    This sort of “gotcha” crap is the reason I vastly prefer using BSD licensed software.

    Regardless of whether you prefer the GPL or the BSD license, this is hardly a "gotcha." Selling GPL software without providing the source code is a pretty blatant violation of the exact purpose of the GPL, not some minor violation of an obscure clause.

  • Re:Dumb Summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:43PM (#32353788) Homepage

    This is like the old MacOS version of multitasking: hope that developers play nice with each other.

    Ultimately, you can't trust it. If you are going to make up some bogus rules and an
    enforcement apparatus you should at least follow through with all of that and at
    least bother to do a decent job. This isn't the first problematic app to slip through
    Apple's fingers like this.

    By choosing to be platform tyrant, they get to take responsibility for all of this
    nonsense.

  • Re:Fat Chance (Score:2, Insightful)

    by transwarp (900569) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:56PM (#32353946)
    Because Youtube and eBay review everything users post before making it available to viewers or buyers....
  • by mmclure (26378) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:31PM (#32354414) Homepage

    Or am I just not getting something?

    Yes - the Apple iPhone SDK rules also specify that if you build anything using it, you cannot distribute it through any means other than the App Store, therefore violating the clause of the GPL that says there can be no other restrictions on distribution (section 6 of the GPL version 2, section 10 of the GPL version 3.)

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

    by Graff (532189) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:38PM (#32354462)

    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

    I don't see this clause anywhere in the developer agreement. It does say that you can't redistribute the SDK and that you can't distribute the application once you have contracted with Apple to distribute the application but nothing is ever said of the source code itself. It seems to me that you could freely distribute the source code under the developer agreement, you just couldn't distribute the binaries other than on Apple's App store.

    I believe the problem with section 6 of the GPL v2 [gnu.org] is that once you get the app you should be able to copy, distribute, or modify it. This is prohibited under the App store, each download is code signed to only work for one account. Thus it is a prohibition on the user, not the developer.

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

    by BitZtream (692029) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @08:48PM (#32356016)

    Yes. Apple doesn't really try to stop anyone, they do strongly advise against it and won't support you if you do it. They certainly don't have to provide you with the tools to do so.

    I assure you however, I've copied apps between phones with a simple scp command line.

    Apple doesn't have to help you do it or do it for you, they don't even have to make it easy.

    From a technical perspective, if someone can solder up a connection to the flash chips and dump it, they've met that particular clause, regardless of how absurd of an idea that may seem.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @08:52PM (#32356078)

    Section 7.2 may be restrictive, but the EFFs response is an attempt to confuse the issue. They are mixing Apples right to control the use of their SDK and store front and exclusivity with the distribution of the application outside the store.

    Violation or not, thats a clear attempt to mix in other parts of the EFFs agenda in an attempt to equate them to being one and the same, which they most certainly are not.

  • by Rich0 (548339) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:01PM (#32356180) Homepage

    Simply making the source available isn't sufficient to make a program GPL-compliant. You also need to redistribute it with terms compatible with the GPL, which means that you need to include with your program a license that allows free redistribution.

    Programs distributed via the app store do not include such licenses, since they are built with the iphone SDK, and Apple doesn't permit redistribution of programs built with the SDK.

    It doesn't matter that you can build the same program with your own copy of the SDK from their source, or even that you could built it without the SDK. If you distribute a derivative work of the GPL using the Apple SDK, then you need to license THAT BINARY COPY of the program for redistribution.

    The bottom line is that if you mix GPL code with the iphone SDK then you can't redistribute the resulting binaries without violating either the SDK terms or the GPL.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:31PM (#32356516)

    And the movies creator also has very little room in the world for DRM.

    Both are pushing their agendas on others and both are losing for it in this particular instance.

    She's no more 'pushing her agenda' than anyone else is "pushing an agenda" who follows traditional copyright.
    According to the law, the rights are granted to the creator, not forced on her.

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

    by qubezz (520511) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @10:06PM (#32356916)

    This sorta gotcha is why GPL developers prefer the GPL.

    It is also why Apple developers prefer the BSD license [apple.com] - they can charge for a cut-and-paste of something that is free/free.

    It is ironic how Berkeley students and faculty are now paying Apple to use code their institution gave to the world for free - and only because they made it too free.

  • by GryMor (88799) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:19PM (#32357468)

    No Apple app store app can, currently, be in compliance with the GPL. This is about Clause 6, which requires you to allow redistribution of any GPL app, as is (something that apple prevents via license and technical measures) and has nothing to do with source code.

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

    by cupantae (1304123) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {llienoram}> on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:27PM (#32357528)

    Open Office did not have the TOC, TOF, page numbering, section break, formatting options that worked well enough for those reports.

    I have no idea what TOF is, but Open Office has perfectly good options for all of the other things. I refuse to believe that it wasn't up to scratch. Rather, I think that you have developed habits with MSO which you refuse to break or recognise.

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

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice&gmail,com> on Thursday May 27, 2010 @02:48AM (#32358662)

    It is ironic how Berkeley students and faculty are now paying Apple to use code their institution gave to the world for free - and only because they made it too free.

    Its not 'ironic' at all, and its certainly not 'too free' - Berkley students can get 'their' code from thousands of other sources, but what they cannot get is the value-add package that the Apple distribution provides. They havent lost anything, 'their' code is still available to them (and even Apple will supply it - you can download the Darwin sources).

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday May 27, 2010 @02:18PM (#32365486)

    This is really the analogy that you're going with?

    No. You seem to be confused. There is no analogy being used. I'm not saying what Apple is doing is analogous to copying, I'm saying it is copying, and that copying is, under copyright law, an exclusive right under copyright (unlike distributing existing copies) and, therefore, unlike distributing existing copies does require a copyright license or an exception to copyright if you aren't the copyright owner.

    Apple does indeed transmit a new digital copy each time someone purchases an app. But it not really the essence of what Apple does.

    Yes, it is. Making and distributing electronic copies is the essence of what an internet software, music, etc. distribution service does.

    It's no more possible for Apple to confirm that the copyright is correct on all these items, than it is for YouTube to police all it's videos. And, unlike YouTube, Apple has a contract with the developer, and knows exactly who should be held responsible.

    YouTube, because -- unlike Apple's store -- it allows user-submitted content without a preliminary review, benefits from the DMCA safe harbor provision. Apple, by assuming the right to control what content is put into the App Store through an advance review process, doesn't benefit from the DMCA safe harbor and is, consequently, legally responsible for assuring that the content posted doesn't violate copyright.

    If it decides to not include sufficient review to determine that in its review process -- something which it could do -- then it accepts the risk that it is exposed to for doing that.

    And it's true for any store. Best Buy is ok to sell the same illegal bits because they are affixed to a physical media?

    The bits aren't illegal. The act of copying the bits is illegal.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 27, 2010 @03:02PM (#32366254)

    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.

    You apparently have never done any consulting.

    I routinely see RFPs which basically say that the format of any delivered documents is required to be in a specified Office format. Any exception will be summarily rejected and won't go any further in the process.

    For many of us, either because it's a corporate standard, or mandated by people who pay the bills, Open Office simply isn't a viable alternative. That's about as pragmatic as you can get.

    You're overstating your case because you can't imagine a scenario where you'd be wrong. The reality is, in the corporate world, going on about Open Office isn't going to get you anywhere other than blank stares and not winning business.

    Open Office is nice and all, but sometimes people like you who are loudly advocating it, live and work in a bubble that the rest of us don't have the same luxury.

"The medium is the message." -- Marshall McLuhan

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