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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.
    • by masmullin (1479239) <masmullin@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:09PM (#32352532)

      The more they tighten their grip, the more open source software will slip through their fingers.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

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

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

          by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot AT pitabred DOT dyndns DOT org> 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.

      • The more they tighten their grip, the more the iPod shrinks!
      • by interval1066 (668936) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:42PM (#32352984) Homepage Journal

        Bertrand Serlet: "Steve, we've analyzed their attack, and there is a weakness. Shall I have your shuttle and our crack legal team standing by?" Steve Jobs: "Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances."

    • 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: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 hedwards (940851)
        Nope. They'd also have to provide the source through the App store as well. Which I doubt very much that they'd be willing to do, but that is a requirement of the GPL.

        Unless I'm missing something that's probably going to be more of an issue.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Graff (532189)

        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 ge

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *

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

      If you think Apple is doing any of this on principle. Since they're implementing iPhone as the literal textbook example from The Innovator's Solution [amazon.com], they'd also be close to opening the iPhone since Android is about to walk past them (the book shows that staying proprietary until the product is commoditized leads to the maximum profits).

      The timing might not be quite right, but

  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:07PM (#32352504)
    What a software license breach and someone doesn't threaten with lawsuits and horse whippings?! what's this world coming to, it almost sounds like people are being reasonable.
    • 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.

  • Dumb Summary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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 fo

    • 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 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: (Score:3, Informative)

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

      They already did [apple.com]

    • by Arker (91948) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:23PM (#32352730) Homepage

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

      Although the FSF tends to be far too kind, the fact is copyright law doesnt work that way. They are still on the hook for infringement already committed - or at least could be, if the copyright holders want to pursue it.

      • by sabre86 (730704)
        It's GNU Go, I believe FSF holds to the copyright to it.

        --sabre86
      • Apple or the people that published it in the store?

        I vote the people.

      • If I publish a book with copyrighted material in it without permission to do so and Barnes and Nobles sells that book, who is accountable for the copyright violation?

        Why do you think Apple should be treated any differently?
        • by Arker (91948)
          What if you do have permission to do so, under certain conditions, but then Barnes and Nobles who are beyond your control violate those conditions? Hmmm?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by UnknowingFool (672806)
      Considering whoever created it violated the same Apple Developer's Agreement that FSF has issues with, Apple can just pull the App without much legal entanglement.

      3.1(e) For the purposes of Schedule 1(if applicable), You represent and warrant that You own or control the necessary rights in order to appoint Apple and Apple Subsidiaries as Your worldwide agent for the delivery of Your Licensed Applications, and that the fulfillment of such appointment by Apple and Apple Subsidiaries shall not violate or infri

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rockoon (1252108)
        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.
        • 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.

      • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:41PM (#32352956)
        Regardless of what the agreement might say, Apple is still on the hook for infringement. Considering the level of vetting that they give to applications going in and the number that have been blocked due to non-obvious problems, they're not going to be able to plead ignorance.
    • 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?

      That's probably what they will do, but you never know. More apps in the app store means more happy customers and may lead to more iPhone sales. Apple is a pretty OSS savvy company and knows the value of cooperation with the open source community. They also happen to have a lot of OSS geeks working there. It is possible Apple will take the harder, but more conciliatory approach of adding a license clause to exempt GPL software from the no-redistribution clause and in so doing open the way for GPL code to mak

    • The real question is, will they Kill Switch the app for those who have already downloaded it?

      That'd be a woefully ironic way of responding to the FSF's concerns about user's rights. "Oh, sorry, FSF. Just to show you how sorry we are, we'll remotely disable all copies of that app. That way, nobody will be left with a copy of the app that doesn't fully comply with the GPL terms. All better?"

      • by Duradin (1261418)

        What apps have they ever "kill switched"?

        I have apps that due to private api violations can no longer be downloaded from the store but continue to run quite well on my up-to-date touch.

    • 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."

    • by samkass (174571)

      Apple is not even the people who violated the GPL-- it's the authors of the App who are distributing it (through Apple's store). Said authors are responsible, although I'm sure the FSF would love to go after Apple's deeper pockets instead.

      Apple doesn't give App developers 1099's for the same reason-- Apple isn't selling; they are providing the marketplace infrastructure for the app developers to sell.

  • They'll make the app disappear and to appease the FSF they'll provide a notice about the app. And possibly a link to the source for awhile.
  • by maccodemonkey (1438585) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:17PM (#32352634)

    Nothing about the app store means that you can't freely share the code and load it on your own devices. Nothing legally stops you from jailbreaking the device, and loading on the source yourself.

    However, it seems that the argument is that anything that falls under the GPL in binary form must be redistributed without restriction, regardless of the availability of the source code. I'm not so sure on this. 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...

    • mod up (Score:3, Funny)

      by mveloso (325617)

      They should be going after the author, not Apple. More FSF grandstanding.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eldavojohn (898314) *

      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 (o

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        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).

        As an app store developer, I can tell you Apple lets the developer supply the license, and it's embedded in the app store for your product.

        Because the developer supplies the license for the app store, this is really the developers issue again.

    • 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.

      • And those Terms of Service only apply to the binary version. Hence my question, because if the source code is freely available, you can load it on as many devices as you want.

        I honestly don't know if having just the source code available fulfills the license, hence my question.

    • 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]

  • Would it satisfy the GPL requirements if the source code was made available for free download on another site or does it have to be included with the binary?

    • by Stumbles (602007)
      The GPL does not require the source code originate from the same site as the binary. So yes, the source can be made available elsewhere.
    • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Enderandrew (866215)

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

      • 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.

        You can install apps on an unlimited number of iPhones/iPod Touches as long as you either authorize the device by signing in and redownloading the app directly or authorize the other person's iTunes to download and sync the app from your account.

      • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BitZtream (692029)

        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 h

  • 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.

    For the FSF, at least, that is not unusual at all. Quite the opposite, that is always their goal when approaching violators.

  • Neither TFS nor TFA make it clear whether the offending application is published by Apple, but it seems that the answer is "no". If so, I fail to see why Apple should be responsible for non-compliance here. Yes, their licensing terms are restrictive, but if some developer didn't realize that they are incompatible with GPL, it's his problem - not Apple's (and not FSF's).

    From Apple's perspective, they simply have an application in App Store which is infringing on FSF copyright. I'd imagine that they have some

    • by pavera (320634)

      apple is the distributor of the software. It is distribution that gets you in trouble with the GPL. If you download a GPL app, and modify it, and then never distribute it to anyone else, then you are not required to share your source code modifications. It is in distribution that you violate the GPL, if you do distribute your modified app, then you are required to include all the source code.

      This is where apple is in violation because they are the distributor of the app, not the developers.

  • 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.
    • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@NoSPaM.gmail.com> 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rich0 (548339)

        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 th

      • 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.

    • by Tom (822)

      But that is exactly why the FSF has a great track record in bringing companies into compliance - they give them advance notice, talk with them, their main goal is to bring them into compliance, not to sue.

      What really is lost if they are in violation of the GPL for a week? The outcome matters. A victory for Free Software is still a victory if it doesn't materialize immediately right now.

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BitZtream (692029)

      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 Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:46PM (#32353024)

    The producer of the full-length, animated movie "Sita Sings the Blues" recently found herself in a similar situation.
    She had an eye-opening experience when she went to license the music in the movie (from the 1920s) and found out that it cost $50K for the rights and another $20K for the lawyers to do the clearance work - for recordings that are in the public domain (but the lyrics are not).

    Because of that she decided to release the movie under the Creative Commons Share-Alike license - which, I believe, is the version most like the GPL(and she also took out a loan for the music rights). The movie has been very popular, Roger Ebert raved about it, even the guys on his old TV show (now called "At the Movies") gave it high marks. So eventually Netflix came a-calling, they offered her something like $7K up front for the right to stream the movie. However, she insisted that they stream it without DRM and their system is just not set up to do that, it's like they never conceived of the idea of Free content when they designed it. Kinda ironic in retrospect because I'd be really surprised if, just like most of the interwebs, a whole lot of netflix's infrastructure didn't run on Free software,

    Anyway, she was willing to compromise - she would grant an exception to the licensing terms and they could DRM it, if they would run a placard at the start of the movie telling viewers that it was Free and where to get it from. No dice said Netflix. So she no dice too.

    So, my bet is that Apple goes the same way as netflix - unwilling to compromise because their world view has no room in it for Free software for regular users.

    BTW:
    Sita Sings the Blues - main site [sitasingstheblues.com]
    Download page - including bittorrent of a very nice 4GB 1080p mkv, also streaming from Youtube, etc [sitasingstheblues.com]
    IMDB Page [imdb.com]
    Ebert's review [suntimes.com]

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