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

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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  • Wrong People (Score:1, Interesting)

    by gmhowell ( 26755 ) <> on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:08PM (#32352530) Homepage Journal

    Isn't this like going after Wal-Mart if they sell a router from a company that uses GPL code in the firmware for that router company violating the GPL?

    Just an attempt for the FSF to get some PR. Ho-hum.

  • Re:Wrong People (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PipsqueakOnAP133 ( 761720 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:16PM (#32352628)

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

  • 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...

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

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:22PM (#32352720) Homepage Journal

    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 [], 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 it's close.

  • 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 UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:23PM (#32352738)
    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 infringe the rights of any third party;

    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 Apple Software to be subject to any FOSS licensing terms or obligations.

  • by maccodemonkey ( 1438585 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:27PM (#32352794)

    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 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.
  • 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.

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

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

    by bondsbw ( 888959 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:48PM (#32353060)

    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

    Keep in mind that anyone may opt out of the GPL, and in such case standard copyright laws apply. But only the copyright owners (those listed in AUTHORS) have legal standing to sue over copyright infringement. I doubt Apple would want to go down that route, because it opens them up to being sued, and they probably won't sue in return.

    So let's say they opt-in to the GPL. Anyone who purchases the software can then require the source code of the derivative software from Apple, and Apple would then require it from the authors. And it would stop there, to my understanding... the GPL would not apply to anything like the App Store or the iPhone OS software, so it's really just a matter of Apple enforcing its rights in order to comply with ours.

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

    by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:20PM (#32353496)

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

    There's plenty of open software and other open content for the iPhone/iPod touch/iPad.

    It's absurd to think they'll pull the app simply to prevent openness. If all they have to do is provide access to the source, that seems like an easy enough thing to do. They can just point to the author's source repository (what? you think everyone who passes on GPL software has to host the source themselves?). If they have to provide the DRM keys, or ship the app without DRM, they likely won't do it because it would significantly alter how the App Store works, which isn't a reasonable thing to expect them to do for a single GNU app.

    An interesting side note, the Android Marketplace is in a similar situation. Purchases from the Marketplace are also protected (poorly, which is an entirely other matter). So if Apple is required to allow redistribution of the binaries, Google will be facing the same issue (as will all other online app stores).

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

    by PipsqueakOnAP133 ( 761720 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:22PM (#32353518)


    Let's look at the situation in a little more detail instead of handwaving it away.

    Apple distributes something (a zip file) which includes an App licensed under the GPL written by an Author who provides said zip file to Apple to distribute.

    Walmart distributes something (a router) which includes an App (Linux kernel) licensed under the GPL produced by an company (Linksys) who provides said router to Apple to distribute.

    To me: A store sells an object licensed under the GPL produced by another party.

    So.... how's Walmart not an acceptable analogy?
    If you're going to tell me that Apple's going to need to provide me the GPL code from a third party, how do I request Newegg,, Walmart, and Fry's Electronics to provide me the kernel source from a WRT54g?

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

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:02PM (#32354022)

    So.... how's Walmart not an acceptable analogy?

    Wal-Mart just re-sells copies that were sold to it. A copyright license simply doesn't apply and isn't even required. Wal-Mart didn't conduct any activity that is protected by copyright, and thus doesn't need to obtain with or comply with a license to conduct that activity.

    Meanwhile Apple actually makes and distributes copies of the zip file. This is an activity that is covered by copyright. They are prohibited from doing this without a licnese. So they need a license... which they have...the GPL. But they must abide by its terms.

  • by Improv ( 2467 ) <> on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:18PM (#32354230) Homepage Journal

    Not really, it's just pragmatic. The GPL leads the world closer to where it would be without intellectual property protections. Those of us who don't respect intellectual property lose nothing substantial by the GPL's terms - we ignore the mechanisms as we would any other license. Practically, we gain in that the "encumberance" in the license is for things we consider illegitimate, and the people who believe in IP find the board begin to tilt towards where we wanted it to be in the first place. We already have a big enough viral amount of software to exist comfortably - if we can get the GPL on enough things (and eventually abandon the LGPL) and make it so useful as to be indespensible, we'll be able to have the next best thing to real IP abolition, and on the way we'll sink enough money out of the pro-IP industry (at least in software) to make it easier to fend off legal and other threats. That's the idea, anyhow.

    I can understand why people might be uncomfortable with the idea of using mechanisms that we don't think should exist - it's murky waters in most cases, particularly in politics. In this case, it's almost entirely benign because the license terms don't take away anything we think people should have in the first place. To repeat a nice quip,

    The "freedom to encumber" works is like the "freedom to punch someone"... They are both 'freedoms' that only exist at the expense of others. -- Gregory Maxwell

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.