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GNU is Not Unix Open Source Apple

VLC Developer Takes a Stand Against DRM Enforcement 717

jamie writes "The GPL gives Apple permission to distribute this software through the App Store. All they would have to do is follow the license's conditions to help keep the software free. Instead, Apple has decided that they prefer to impose Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) and proprietary legal terms on all programs in the App Store, and they'd rather kick out GPLed software than change their own rules."
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VLC Developer Takes a Stand Against DRM Enforcement

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  • I'm shocked! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 31, 2010 @10:13AM (#34079464)

    Apple exercising tight controls, I would have never thought of that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 31, 2010 @10:15AM (#34079472)
    to me it looks like the VLC developers had the app posted in the App Store so they could use this as a soapbox. The app on the iPad is a piece of crap and not really useable. I have since deleted it.
  • by archatheist ( 316491 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @10:24AM (#34079540)

    http://www.fsf.org/news/blogs/licensing/more-about-the-app-store-gpl-enforcement [fsf.org]


    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.

    In short, I think there are problems beyond DRM with GPL software being distributed through the app store.

  • Re:Download now? (Score:2, Informative)

    by KugelKurt ( 908765 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @10:25AM (#34079556)

    VLC is under GPLv2. v2 is compatible with the terms of the Apple App Store and pretty much any other app store out there.
    GPLv3 is incompatible because it requires the right that receivers of GPLv3'ed code can not only freely modify it but also run it (this clause was written after TiVo used the Linux kernel in its boxes but had some checksum authentication method to ensure that users don't install modified kernels -- Linus Torvalds, btw, dislikes GPLv3 for that very reason)

  • by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes.xmsnet@nl> on Sunday October 31, 2010 @10:35AM (#34079614)

    The original announcement says nothing about DRM. Nor do I recall reading anywhere else about Apple requiring DRM be included in products sold via the App Store. To me this looks like the FSF is hijacking the issue of GPL vs. Apple license.

  • by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @10:35AM (#34079616)

    It didn't have to be the VLC developers - it could have been anyone who posted it to the app store, because the GPL permits you to redistribute the software. It looks like it was a French company "Applidium" that posted it.

    Alas, the restrictions placed on app store content by Apple are not compatible with the GPL ; those receiving the app cannot redistribute it and do not receive sources or an offer of sources (from Apple, who are the distributor - Applidium link to the the videolan.org git repository, which isn't necessarily where they host their source - presumably they tweak the sources for iOS but there's no sign of them offering those tweaks, even if that would satisfy the license which it doesn't - the distributor has to offer the sources).

    Applidium have almost certainly benefited from getting their app store category link in front of the eyes of a lot more people who wanted VLC for their device.

    Applidium may well be adhering to the license - you only have to distribute the changes you make to people receiving the software, so they may have sent the source for their iOS specific tweaks to VLC to Apple along with the binaries. But Apple are most certainly not adhering to the license, and Applidium shouldn't be blameless as they were almost certainly aware that Apple would breach the license as a result of them submitting the app.

  • Re:Download now? (Score:2, Informative)

    by turbidostato ( 878842 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @10:46AM (#34079704)

    "VLC is under GPLv2. v2 is compatible with the terms of the Apple App Store"

    Does Apple's App Store offer the means to download the source code of the app? If not, Apple store is incompatible with the terms of GPLv2.

    "and pretty much any other app store out there."

    I know an app store *can* be compatible with GPLv2 terms. "Can" and "do" are different issues, anyway.

  • Under GPL if I add something useful and extend the program, I have to also post those changes under GPL.

    You don't have to post the changes at all; you can keep the "something useful" to yourself.

  • by icecoldkilla ( 1011085 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @10:50AM (#34079734)

    No. Under GPL if I add something useful and extend the program, I have to also post those changes under GPL.

    Only if you distribute the program the restriction kicks in. If you just use the program no one is going to force you to post the changes and modifications.

  • by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @10:51AM (#34079744) Journal

    v2 is compatible with the terms of the Apple App Store and pretty much any other app store out there.

    Not according to the FSF.
    The Apple App Store conditions are inimical to terms in GPLv2, which states explicitly: "You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein." The Apple App Store explicitly sets such a restriction: "The Usage Rules shall govern your rights with respect to the Products, in addition to any other terms or rules that may have been established between you and another party." and requires that you accept this as a condition of using the App Store. It also lists various GPLv2-violating restrictions in its Usage Rules, such as limiting use of a product to five Apple-authorized devices.
    http://www.fsf.org/news/blogs/licensing/more-about-the-app-store-gpl-enforcement [fsf.org]

  • Re:On the other hand (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @10:59AM (#34079778)

    What makes VLC more specifically tied to the warez scene than any other video player?

    When obnoxious teenage 1337 w4r3z d00dz upload poorly encoded video or video encoded with some retarded codec that almost no one uses the standard reply to "why won't this play?" is "Use VLC, it plays fine there." because VLC plays almost anything (and for those things that don't play in VLC there's always Mplayer).

    Basically, the reason VLC is popular with downloaded content is because it tends to play a lot of formats that other software doesn't understand.

  • Re:On the other hand (Score:5, Informative)

    by blackraven14250 ( 902843 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @11:01AM (#34079790)
    It's also much less bloated than WMP or iTunes, and it still plays nearly anything out of the box, which is why I use it. Startup time is important, and definitely a draw when it's less than 1/10th of the time of the other leading players.
  • Re:Obstinance? (Score:2, Informative)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday October 31, 2010 @11:06AM (#34079830) Homepage Journal

    how is Apple expecting software distributed via their App Store to comply with App Store terms and conditions any more obstinate than expecting software distributed under the GPL to be distributed according to GPL conditions?

    What is more obstinate is that there is no other legitimate way to distribute software for the device apart from Apple's terms. With GNU/Linux or other platforms incorporating GPL code, on the other hand, one can set up something like CNR to add paid non-free software.

  • Re:Download now? (Score:5, Informative)

    by rdebath ( 884132 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @11:08AM (#34079846)


    All the provisions of the GPL apply to distributing exact and modified copies of the software.

    If you make changes to GPL software but do not distribute it there is nothing that says you must provide your changes to anyone. ONLY if you distribute the software must you make provision for distributing the source of the version you distribute.

  • Re:Fire Sale! (Score:2, Informative)

    by eriqk ( 1902450 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @11:26AM (#34079956)
    Hardly. Only GNU and iOS are acronyms.
    The others are initialisms.
  • Re:Download now? (Score:2, Informative)

    by samkass ( 174571 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @11:34AM (#34080016) Homepage Journal

    Apple is NOT the distributor, they are simply the hosting company. Each individual app author is distributing their apps using Apple's service. This is apparent in the fact that Apple does not give out 1099 tax forms, because they are not "paying" you, simply offering you a hosting and credit clearing service.

  • by lethe1001 ( 606836 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @11:39AM (#34080050)
    The App Store TOS have changed many times since the FSF posted that, and that particular sentence no longer appears. So what is now the basis for VLC's actions? You can see the current TOS at http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/us/terms.html#SERVICE [apple.com] It does contain clauses about "you may only use this app on a device you own" etc, which would appear to be against GPL. But it also says the App Store license only applies if the app doesn't have its own EULA. Seems to me (though IANAL) that in the case of a GPL app, that would be the EULA, and would hold instead of Apple's terms. Seems to me that VLC's actions were more about publicity and general offense about Apple's DRM than any actual claims that the GPL was violated. Though surely if they'd used GPL3 then they'd have a basis for such a claim.
  • Re:On the other hand (Score:4, Informative)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @11:41AM (#34080070) Homepage

    VLC isn't just about the fact that it plays the stuff that Apple talking heads like to dismiss. It's also a much easier to deal with. It's packaged in a much more user friendly manner and doesn't force clueless novices to try and track down plugins piecemeal or burden them with trying to figure out what plugins they even need.

    VLC is a "usability" tool.

  • Re:Looks (Score:3, Informative)

    by macshome ( 818789 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @12:12PM (#34080312) Homepage
    Business customers can distribute their own apps right now via the Enterprise development programs.
  • Re:Looks (Score:5, Informative)

    by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday October 31, 2010 @12:17PM (#34080338)

    "Apple" doesn't offer you a limited number of region changes, that is part of the firmware of the DVD drive, and is common to *all* DVD drives to be in compliance with the specification. It's a brainless part of the spec, but it is in there at the behest of the movie industry. All of Apple's drives are standard off-the-shelf drives from a number of manufacturers - off the top of my head, they use Sony, Matashita (panasonic), NEC and Pioneer drives, among others.

    VLC can attempt to ignore the region code, but it only works on some drives. Certain ones (usually the more modern Panasonic ones) are crippled further, preventing bypass of the region lock this way. My older Powerbook's drive can be bypassed with VLC, but my newer iMac's drive doesn't work like that and required that I patch it with an RPC-1 firmware.

    In order to actually sell a DVD drive, it has to have this brainless region coding - the manufacturers who make them would face licensing consequences if they shipped region free drives. Apple itself does not make DVD drives, but they are affected by this downstream - they can't install custom firmwares that remove the restriction.

  • Re:Looks (Score:4, Informative)

    by SaDan ( 81097 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @12:21PM (#34080372) Homepage

    The App Store is coming to desktops and laptops in the next edition of OS X, so this applies to ALL of Apple's "computing" products in the near future.

  • Re:On the other hand (Score:3, Informative)

    by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @12:26PM (#34080420) Homepage

    That's a bit like saying air is the most commonly inhaled gas when people watch pirated content.

    Holy crap, terrorist also depend on air. Therefor pirates must be terrorists.

  • Re:Looks (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mitchell314 ( 1576581 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @12:26PM (#34080426)
    So? Anybody with a laptop/desktop can still download the program the normal way sans apple store.
  • Re:Download now? (Score:3, Informative)

    by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @12:30PM (#34080456) Homepage

    Apple is simply the distributor

    Distribution of copyrighted material requires permission of the copyright owner, with the notable exception of distributions that fall under the first sale doctrine. The first sale doctrine does not apply to the App Store.

  • Re:Looks (Score:3, Informative)

    by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday October 31, 2010 @12:39PM (#34080530)

    I live in the UK, and I am aware of this. It's shaky ground as far as the licensing goes - they are technically in breach and could be challenged.

    Now, the argument against the lock is free trade, and could explain why no one has gone after this infringement yet. The other reason could be simple economics - DVDs in the UK are just as cheap as in the US now, meaning the incentive to import cheaper discs from other markets is much lower now than it used to be (remember when DVDs were well over £20 each, and the equivalent disc was $15 - I used to order them from the states for this reason, and my trusty chipped Pioneer DV-515 is still going strong to this day).

    All computer DVD drives are shipped as RPC-2 (firmware locked) as far as I know since they are manufactured for the global market, unlike some standalone players that can be unlocked with a code punched into the remote, or are just region free out of the box which are made specifically for regional markets.

  • Re:Looks (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 31, 2010 @12:43PM (#34080558)

    You all might want to check out www.rpc1.org. It explains the situation in detail, and has firmware fixes that will work around the DVD CSS region coding limitations programmed into most modern dvd drives' firmware.

  • by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @01:15PM (#34080804) Homepage

    The VLC Team is sending a copyright infringement to Apple

    Not quite. One VLC developer sent a copyright infringement notice. It is not the VLC team doing it. In fact, when that developer wrote about it on his planet VLC blog, his blog was temporarily removed from planet VLC because the VLC team was concerned it might look like they were complaining to Apple, rather than it being one developer who had a problem with Apple. (I believe his blog has been restored, and the particular entry has a disclaimed on it making it clear that it is a person action of the developer, not an action of the whole team).

    On their mailing list, a couple other developers agree with the first developer. and some other developers disagree because Apple changed its terms after the GNU Go incident and they think the new terms remove the conflict with GPL.

  • Re:Looks (Score:3, Informative)

    by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @02:56PM (#34081934) Homepage Journal

    I'd prefer that people buy a less locked-down device in the first place, but there isn't really an "Android pod touch" in the United States yet.

    Yes there is. Archos 28, 32 or 43 [archos.com], starting at $99, all running Android 2.1 or greater, available from Sears.

  • Re:Looks (Score:4, Informative)

    by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday October 31, 2010 @05:31PM (#34083254)

    It is exactly for the reason I stated in my post - tools like VLC and other such players attempt to read the disk as a DVD-ROM and bypass the region lock. This works for some drives and not others, as I stated.

    One of my machines can do this (a Powerbook), the other one cannot do this (an iMac), and required a firmware upgrade. The only difference is the drive manufacturer.

  • Re:Looks (Score:3, Informative)

    by ConfusedVorlon ( 657247 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @05:32PM (#34083264) Homepage

    VLC doesn't have 'owners' per se.

    It has a bunch of contributors who have contributed their individual bits of code under the GPL.

    this request for removal comes from a single one of those developers.

    Within the VLC community, there is disagreement as to whether that was the best thing to do - but the fact is; His code is in the app - so he can enforce his copyright.

    There are other developers who feel the same way, and still others who frankly would like to see the app stay in the store. (Broadly they would argue that the spirit of the GPL is met as users can in practice freely access the app, and can get and modify the source at will. Perhaps they're willing to overlook some of the more specific restrictions in order to see the benefit of easy accessiblilty.).

    It really doesn't matter though - any contributor can call for the licence to be respected - and one of them has.

  • Re:Looks (Score:4, Informative)

    by R.Mo_Robert ( 737913 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @08:09PM (#34084376)

    The App Store is coming to desktops and laptops in the next edition of OS X, so this applies to ALL of Apple's "computing" products in the near future.

    You do realize that the forthcoming Mac App Store is for convenience only and is not the only way to install new applications on Lion, right? This is not the same as iOS.

  • Re:Looks (Score:2, Informative)

    by dudpixel ( 1429789 ) on Sunday October 31, 2010 @09:50PM (#34085084)

    The next MacOS release will require signed applications and guess what.... only Steve gets to sign.

    Only for those things put on the App Store. The app store will not be an exclusive place to download apps on OS X. Stop spreading lies.

    Are you that blind you don't think it'll happen in a future release?

    The writing is on the wall - it is only a matter of time. Sometime in the next few years people will be asking how to jailbreak their mac.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @05:26AM (#34086998)

    Clearly. But they shouldn't have done.

    They have a review process. They should use it properly.

    It's Apple's app store. They are the ones selling the wares. It's up to them to make sure they adhere to the appropriate laws.

    You're a fucking retard. Apps submitted to the App Store are binaries, not source. How in the hell is Apple supposed to tell what license the source was licensed under, or whether any of it was stolen from a different copyright holder? They don't have the source.

    Besides, you're doing the equivalent of holding a retail bookstore responsible for the clean copyright status of every book on its shelves. That's idiotic.

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