back to article Apple picks death not compliance for open source iPhone game

Apple has removed an application from the iPhone App Store after the Free Software Foundation complained that the store's terms of service undermined the application's open source license. To the countless "inappropriate" apps Apple has ejected from its App Store, you can add GNU Go, a chess-like game that's open sourced under …


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  1. John Gamble


    I realize that this is tangential to the subject of the article, but calling Go "chess-like" shows an extreme lack of knowledge of chess, or go, or both.



  2. Rippy

    Surely "Liberty or Death"?

    Sounds to me like Stallman proclaimed "Give GnuGo liberty or give it death" and The Steve responded "OK, hand me the ax".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fair enough!

      That's exactly how GPL is meant to be and I have no problem at all with it.

    2. James O'Shea

      that's it

      And Stallman went in _knowing_ that the iSteve had his ax handy.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very chess-like

    There's pieces, you take turns, and the computer always wins.

    On-topic: Apple's attitude to Open Source has been clear for a long time: thanks for the code and so long, suckers. It's the same old Dinosaur it's always been, trying to find ways to lock users in to non-standard hardware, non-standard file formats, non-standard leads, non-standard Apple-brand everything. Those who run away from competition surely are those most afraid that their emperor has in fact no clothes.

    1. Trygve

      Dinosaur emperors with no clothes

      Interesting that Apple and MS between them are worth nearly half a trillion dollars.

      One could be forgiven for thinking that short of being a major participant in the oil market, shunning open source in all its forms is the single most profitable economic activity on the planet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Missed the point

        "One could be forgiven for thinking that short of being a major participant in the oil market, shunning open source in all its forms is the single most profitable economic activity on the planet."

        Or, alternatively, you could draw the conclusion that having a monopoly and making sure that your users/customers are legally or technically bound to keep using your products regardless of whether they are better than alternatives is the single most profitable economic activity on the planet and always has been. In fact, most consumer protection law that isn't about health and safety revolves around this simple and age-old fact. Which, of course, is in direct conflict with patent laws which grant a government-backed monopoly on ideas (thanks to function creep in the USPO, at least).

        Apple and MS are like any other company - they hate competition; it reduces profit. What makes them important in that respect is that they have a very large share of their markets. That's the real problem. The fact that Apple makes empty gestures to Open Source is a side-show.

        1. Trygve

          what point?

          "Apple and MS are like any other company - they hate competition; it reduces profit."

          Give that man a biscuit, you know an elementary fact of business.

          But since they essentially have no competition from Open Source, I fail to see the relevance of your comment. The worry for Apple and MS is all the free software Google are giving away as a loss-leader, not the teeming armies of the open-source movement.

          Open Source - nice in theory, in practice it's roadkill.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Readalong with Trygve

            "Open Source - nice in theory, in practice it's roadkill."

            Well, firstly Apple's current OS is heavily based on Open Source software so I don't really know why you keep whittering on about that.

            Secondly, since you seem too hard of reading to understand it, my actual point was that Apple's approach to everything they do is, from day one, to create lock-in. They even use weird cable connectors in their all-encompassing effort to make it hard for users to leave or for competitors to compete on quality or price. They go to great lengths, just like MS, to make a nice (shiny plastic) bubble around themselves inside which they can charge what they like for any old tat.

            Rather than being heralds of a new world of fantastic possibilities freed from the limitations of physical manufacture and distribution, Apple and MS continue to do everything in their power to limit computing to serving the same resource-poor economic models of the 18th-20th centuries. They are about as forward-thinking as Ford Motor Cars.

            If you want to keep crying about Open Source, why not get a blog so we call all ignore you in bulk?

    2. spencer
      Thumb Down


      Apple's attitude to Open Source has been clear for a long time: thanks for the code and so long, suckers.

      How do explain webkit then? Thats open source and maintained by apple (and others).

      1. Jango
        Jobs Horns

        Webkit is forked from KHTML

        Webkit is a fork of KHTML - which is enitrely open source and free. Apple would have no choice but to open source webkit because of this.

        If Apple had built one from scratch, rest assured that it would be as closed and prorietary as it gets.

    3. vandenbudenmayer

      Computer always wins?

      Go is actually way more complicated for a computer to win than Chess is, and current programs are no way near professional levels. A Go world champion will always win against a computer, for now.

    4. bygjohn

      Or what about CUPS?

      Which I understand Apple originated and maintain, so it's not just ripped off and they are forced to make it OSS. As has been pointed out elsewhere in these comments: this is a non-story. Apple were notified that the software couldn't be hosted in the app store under its current rules/restrictions, so pulled it to comply with the licence. Big deal.

  4. gregharewood

    Not quite true

    GPL as quoted doesn't say that the actual download contents have to be redistributable; just that a license is implied. "The Software" could just as easily refer to an unsigned link on the end of a hyperlink. If not Apple, then the contributor could have facilitated this.

  5. James O'Brien
    Jobs Horns


    "The FSF called the move "disappointing but unsurprising" saying Apple doesn't value people's independence and creativity."

    Lemme repeat that with a few less words:

    "saying Apple doesn't value people's independence and creativity."

    "saying Apple doesn't value people's independence and creativity."

    "saying Apple doesn't value people's independence and creativity."

    I couldn't have said it better myself.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Au contraire mon ami

      Apple really does value people's independence that's why they're taking it away from them.

    2. sandman


      No commercial concern really wants you to be independent - ideally you should be locked in, preferably willingly. Apple are startlingly good at this and always have been. They have achieved this through a mixture of producing some pretty good products, top design skills and even better marketing.

      Since Apple are not a monopoly - other phones, computers, etc are available, there is nothing forcing anyone to buy their kit so they can be as closed as they like from a regulatory point of view. Y'all may not like it but their shareholders and the majority of their customers (based on no research, just guessing) seem to. Oh, you can be as creative as you like, only they'd rather you did it using their products and selling through them.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns


    ...what can I say, Steve sucks.

    Not sent from an iPhone.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    GPL Infections

    Are bad for business.

    FSF are just plain annoying.

    1. vic 4

      How is GPL bad for buisness

      If your usage of the GPL software is not compatible with it don't use it, simple.

      If you mean it's bad for business because the licence prevents you from using it, tough that's live, what would you go if a licence for a proprietary piece of software prevent you from doing want you wanted? You have two options, approach the developers and negotiate a new licence or use/develop something else, and you can do both of those with GPL software.

  8. bojennett

    I like the FSF, but sheesh

    I like how the FSF stands up for software freedom, but their action here seems more than a little silly and petty. Look, if the code is open sourced, then the port would have to follow the same license, right (GPL, Apache, etc.)? And the app is free, right? So, you can get it from the App Store, and you can get the code, modify it, and submit your own version, right? What, exactly, has been limited here and how, exactly, as Apple shown that they don't care about freedom or creativity? What was prevented?

    Many feel that Apple provides a convenience with their App Store. By picking this fight with Apple, the FSF has said "you must change your business model", which Apple very obviously wasn't going to do. All the FSF accomplished here was destroy the open source community's ability to develop really cool iPhone apps that "scratched an itch".

    Yes, they can do it for Android, and i suppose if that is wildly successful, Apple will change their policies, but really, FSF, was this ultimately a necessary thing for you to gripe about?

    1. Ben Tasker


      Apple selling the App in a way that's incompatible with the license is alright, because the App Store is a convenience?


      The only thing that would make it worse is if you believed Apple would give you the same leeway if things were reversed.

      Let me put it this way - Who are Apple to decide whether or not someone elses code can be redistributed? It's the same principle as if they had decided to let everyone distribute something licensed as 'one copy', except that because it's reversed people think it's OK.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        ermmmm no

        Apple were unaware of the GPL license on the software, and when it was pointed out to them by the FSF, they stopped distributing it? The problem here is? If they had ignored the request and continued to distribute, the FSF could have sued, instead they stood by the GPLs terms, easy really...

        apple acted exactly as they should do. It was the developer who acted inappropriately by trying to distribute through a channel that was inappropriate despite Apple's terms being clear (whether you like them or not)

  9. Chad H.

    Well Duh.

    What exactly did the FSF think was going to happen here? Seems a bit like an own goal.

    1. vic 4

      Own Goal?

      > What exactly did the FSF think was going to happen here?

      I'm sure they knew exactly what would happen.

      > Seems a bit like an own goal.

      How, the software was removed so the infringement is gone, this is what they wanted.

      1. The First Dave

        @vic 4

        The software has been removed, so the world is a worse place for anyone who might have wanted to use the software. This was a trivial clause in the licence, and entirely the fault of the developer and/or the licence itself. Apple were not doing anything to prevent access to the actual source, they merely refused to spend a lot of money on Lawyers to write an additional clause into their terms and conditions to say that some of it did not apply to this one app, that was being given away for free and therefore not earning a penny for Apple.

        The silly thing is, if someone had cloned the app, entered it on the Apple store _without_ the GPL, then no-one would have batted an eyelid.

        1. Flybert

          another thing really

          Apple modified the source, adding code that limits the number of times the software can be copied and which kinds of computer device it can be used on

          Therefore the added source code, once distributed, becomes Open and released under GPL, does it not ?

          Would it not been more clever to sue for Apple's source code for the iTunes version of the software, and then distribute it to the OpenSource community ?

          Then could not the community make a *patch* to fix the 5 device (copy) limit and device type restrictions ?

      2. Chad H.

        its an own goal because

        This is going to work against the attractiveness of the GPL - In this case the Go Game developer isnt able to use the code to do what he wants to do because the FSF threw a hissy fit.

        The same arguments against Apple can now be made in a smaller form against the FSF - Use our code OUR way or else!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    GNU Go. Rly?

    I can see how Apple's draconian, evil, restrictive, naughty & aggressive policies have stopped this game becoming the best -ever seller in the Apple store, nay, the best, most popular, most fun and most downloaded game OF ALL TIME.

    I'm crushed.

    1. zenp

      ..FSF go in too deep, group captured, whole game now in disarray, foolish FSF...

      ...agreed in full! Just distances me even further from the day i finally cave in a buy myself a bit of iTech. Though maybe a game as ancient and absorbing as Go will find a new platform on Apple devices...

  11. Neoc

    Differences in the current monopolies.

    Microsoft: "Where do you want to go today?"

    Apple: "You, come over here!"

    It sounds like a major difference, until you realise that both companies are trying to get you to use their software/hardware exclusively, via various means (undisclosed APIs, deep-linking software, breaking or not following standards, etc...)

    Of the two, I'd say Apple is more "honest" and in-your-face about it.

    No, I do not use Apple products and only use MS-branded products when I have to (although I do have a soft-spot for XPSP3, once I finish loading it with non-MS software)

  12. Quxy

    Just as anticipated by the FSF

    No surprise here. As FSF pointed out at the beginning,

    "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... The only thing we're doing differently is making this announcement. Apple has a proven track record of blocking or disappearing programs from the App Store without explanation. So we want to provide everyone with these details about the case before that happens, and prevent any wild speculation."

  13. Spaller

    NetHack next?

    Hmm, hopefully nethack won't be next.

  14. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Jobs Horns

    "restraint of trade"

    Here's hoping the FTC does something useful for once and Apple laywers start soiling their pants.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Trade wherever you like

      Release it without the GPL or release it outside of the Apps store no restraint of trade here...

  15. Robert Hill
    Thumb Down

    Would everyone stop listening to Stallman...please?

    This is a guy who spent most of his life on the US government grant payroll, getting paid to hack in MIT's labs with taxpayer money. His attitude about software "freedom" makes perfect sense - if EVERYONE can be a hacker paid by taxpayer dollars.

    Most of us have to work for a living and make money Richard. Families to support, kid's braces, college educations to pay for, housing to provide. And we don't want to fund your belief that everything should be "free". I expect to PAY for my software (and do), and compensate the coders that actually sweated into the keyboard to create it. And when I have good ideas I expect to be PAID for them - and as a consultant I well do.

    This whole exercise is another episode of rms trying to scream "software wants to be free!". It's a grandstand activity, of no practical value except to try and posit Apple in a negative light by exploiting a conundrum in their legal language. I say conundrum because even if the downloader can only distribute to 5 devices, ANYONE can download a free app off AppStore themselves. Even conundrum gives it too much weight - it's more like a tempest in a teapot. All rms did was get a nice enough game removed from public iPhone distribution - yeah, because that's REALLY good for open software...duh!

    1. Ben Tasker


      In expecting to be paid for your work, you expect the license/contract linked to it to be honoured yes?

      It's the same principle, the original author released it under the license of their choice. It's not for Apple to decide to change the terms, it's not their software.

      I'm not criticising Apple for removing the App, that's their perogative. It's the initial action that's the problem

      1. Anonymous Coward


        They can release it under the license of their choice, but not in the app store. Release it elsewhere for the android, why submit it to the App Store when you know it is going to break the GPL? Publicity? Or incompetence on the devs part?

    2. vic 4
      Thumb Down

      Good for open software

      > All rms did was get a nice enough game removed from public iPhone distribution - yeah, because that's REALLY good for open software...duh!

      And thereby enforced the license the software was developed and released under and making sure open software remains open. True, _Most_ people will be able to get this onto their device but not everyone. Also, if they let this slip they are setting a precedent, the next infringement may be slightly more sever, the next more so, at what point do you think they should step in?

      BTW, I have an old ipod for which the wifi networking is dead (but still used for checking my software works on old kit), connecting to itunes is the only way I can get stuff on it and as my 5 devices is accounted for I can only put things on that I build my self, true I could get the source and build it for myself, anyone else wanting to do that would have to pay Apple $90 for the privilege of the development tools and ability to added my built software to my device that I paid money for.

      The development tools BTW are based on GPL'd software, i.e. gcc

    3. Volker Hett

      jep, he should have taken the money and sold his software

      like any good company would do, get the taxes and then get more money from taxpayers to use what they have already paid for.

  16. James O'Shea

    What's the problem?

    As I see it, the situation is:

    1 the GPL says that software released under it must be released in a certain way

    2 Apple says that software in the App Store must be released in a certain way

    3 Apple's way ain't the GPL way

    4 the EFF is insistent that the app in question be released the GPL way or not at all

    5 Apple says, fine, it's gone.

    The problem appears to have been solved.

    Oh. Wait. The EFF made a song and dance about their licensing _knowing_ that the probable result would be that the app gets booted. I see.

    If I were running the App Store I'd go through all other apps and ensure that any which use the GPL are booted. And I'd turn down any future GPL apps. Congratulations, boys, you just lost a showcase. Hope it was worth it.

    1. vic 4

      Lost nothing

      > you just lost a showcase

      No, they got the infringement addressed, which is want they fundamentally wanted. I'm sure it wouldn't take much for Apple to allow some applications to be free from DRM but they don't so I'm sure the FSF knew exactly what was going to happen.

    2. prathlev


      ""If I were running the App Store I'd go through all other apps and ensure that any which use the GPL are booted. And I'd turn down any future GPL apps.""

      That would be extremely prudent. It would even be illegal _not_ to do this. Unless Apple changes their license terms.

      Please understand: Distributing GPL applications via the App Store using the store's standard license terms is ILLEGAL.

      1. The First Dave


        No, it would not be illegal, there is nothing criminal about any of this.

        IANAL but it seems fairly clear to me that the person who posted this app to the App Store is the one who is most at fault - he is the official publisher, not Apple who are just the conduit.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    creativity != programming

    Saying Apple doesn't value independence and creativity is plain stupid, but only to be expected from a group who's tunnel vision equates these basic human values with computer programming ... nerds ..

  18. j88per
    Dead Vulture

    el reg digs a deeper hole for itself

    Ok, I'm probably more than a little ignorant, but why do these articles always take the stance that it was Jobs who decreed that an app doesn't meet the app store's policies. He's the CEO, I would think and hope that he has slightly more critical responsibilities than deciding who to piss off by what apps are approved or dis-approved. I would think that could be delegated to a few underlings. And what about published policy? I know they've gone against their own policy a few times, its expected, but in this case? Probably not.

    My take on this article, follows the typical rant that once again the Reg has tried to create news where there isn't any. You're trying to start an anti-apple bandwagon by putting up article after article about how apple is evil. Yet lacking any real news, its just pure fail and makes you look stupid.

    I just don't see this as news - the GNU Go game was already licensed under the GPL2 license, that conflicted with apples app store license - GNUGo informed apple of this conflict, apple did what they were supposed to do, remove the conflict. GNUGo didn't say 'lets send this to apple and see if they revert their policy'.

    Its like copyright violation, if I find a photo I snap on the Register and you don't have permission, I have to inform you that you do not have appropriate permission. You then remove the offending photo or come to some term(s) of agreement.

    This is news like telling me that its sunny and 85 out, when I'm already outside. C'mon el reg, you used to be good! Don't get me wrong, the pro apple articles from Orlowski(?) make me just as sick.

    (A stupid yank from across the pond)

  19. Anonymous Coward

    And who lost?

    So folks with iPhones lost the ability to play a good, free open source game. And the farts at FSF think this is a good thing? Or were they truly so naive that they thought that Apple will make an exception in this case?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    GNU Go was the only GPL{v2,v3} app in the apple app store? Really?

    They must realise this too, but if they don't, well. Let's all pick a GPLed app and poke apple with it. As soon as they fail to remove one, sue. As soon as they amend the terms, demand all the others they've removed be put back.

  21. Stephen Orr

    I find it amusing...

    I don't have any problems with Apple having their own rules for the App Store that clash with the GPL. It's their facility, they can run it however they want. It's more amusing that the FSF believe that their license should automatically override everyone else's terms and conditions regardless of whether those terms and conditions apply to every other piece of software or not!

    1. Ben Tasker

      To be fair

      The license that the author released the code under should override Apples terms.

      You're correct, however, in saying that those terms should not have to extend to non GPL software

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Ermmm - non story

    Of course I expect nothing else from el Reg at the moment but anti-Apple stories and Apple haters in the comments (of the last 5 stories all are hate packed).

    What we basically have here is:

    1) Developer takes a GPL licensed game and releases it into app store. Presumably knowing that Apples terms break the license.

    2) Apple accept unaware that it is GPL.

    3) FSF shout "gotcha, change your standard terms and conditions or else you can't sell it."

    4) Apple say oops, sorry we will remove that then.

    Where's the story here? Ohhhh what they wanted was Apple to change a set of standard terms and conditions for iTunes, hmm how many companies are likely to do that really on the basis of one single example?

    The app maker could easily have gotten round this by putting in a link inside the app, but no this wasn't about that, this was more about the "gotcha" moment and the press coverage that could be generated by stating how awful Apple are for FSF.

    Apple are not going to start changing terms and conditions in this way, it would lead to more attempts to play "gotcha".

    Wouldn't even surprise me to find this was intentional anyway.... cynical, me?

  23. Anonymous Coward


    It's Steve's ball FFS! If he wants to be all childish at every turn, take his football and sod off home, just let him!

  24. Anonymous Coward

    So who gets to sue them?

    From memory, the GPL also says Apple will need to continue providing the source code for the next few years too... regardless of whether the software has been removed or not.

    Guess this means they're directly violating the license in that way now too.

    So, who gets to sue them?

    1. Anton Ivanov
      Jobs Horns


      IIRC, the app was ported by somebody else and resold via the store. That person is most likely offering the full source so the GPL is satisfied on that account.

      It is the actual means of redistributing the binary via the store and the way it is wrapped by iTunes for install and redistribution which violate GPL.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The FSF calling Apple's DRM "Digital Restrictions Management" doesn't help their cause, it makes them come across as petulant children calling people names, it may go down well with a certain element of uber geeks, but the majority of people who work in big serious companies will cringe reading this. Herein lies the problem - it's the big companies that the FSF should be going all out to attract, so they need to speak the language of big companies, it is also big companies who are most likely to be running a blend of free and pay for software so don't want lectures on others' ideology.

    For the record: I think Apple are bang out of order here, if someone wants to give their software away for free, Apple should allow this to happen, rather than restricting the distribution of someone else's code.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      But the point is you can give this software away free with Apple, what they wanted to change was the fact that Apple have some legal terms stating you can only put it on five devices once you have downloaded it

      Petty, stupid game playing from FSF..

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    If it's unsurprising...

    ...why did they even bother submitting it, if they expected it to fail?

    ..and if they *knew* it was going to fail, then this was a cynical attempt to put Apple in a bad light, because they dared not to believe in the same values of open distribution as themselves.

    This is a bit like the naturalists asking Obama to walk naked over the whitehouse lawn, and when he refuses, start a pre-prepared negative campaign about his stance on liberties and open values.

    You want to distribute Free Software/OSS correctly, make sure your licence is valid in the distribution channels you choose - especially if that channel is a revenue stream for the supplier.

    If Apple's terms are too strict...use something else (android?)!! If Android's market share grows as a result - so be it; the joke's on Apple then. *Then* we can point an laugh.

    1. RDW
      Thumb Up

      Fair enough

      '...why did they even bother submitting it, if they expected it to fail?'

      'They' (the FSF) did not submit it. GNU GO was released over 20 years ago and runs on all common operating systems (most of which do not impose the sort of peculiar restrictions that Apple deems necessary for the iPhone). GNU GO is not only GPL software but also an official part of the GNU system (meaning that the FSF holds the copyright):

      The iPhone port was written around the GNU Go engine by a third party, Robota Sotfwarehouse, and was released in 2008:

      Robota is of course entitled to take the FSF's GPL'd code and write its own apps, but not to distribute such works in direct contravention of the GPL (except with the explicit permission of the FSF, who could choose to dual license but obviously won't). Robota and Apple should have read the (very well known!) licence of the code they were re-distributing. The terms of the GPL are very clear in this situation, and there's no reason why Apple should be exempt just because the iPhone is cool and shiny.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Call me thick, but I don't understand

    Can someone in lay terms please explain this to me? Ta.

    1. Ben Tasker

      Quite Simple

      GNUGo is released under the General Public License. This License implies a perpetual license to each user to use, modify and redistribute the license as they see fit (so long as they abide by the license, obviously)

      Apple have added their own terms to it, despite not being the authors/owners of the code, to say it can only be used on 5 devices (i.e. limiting the distribution possible)

      Bit of a non-issue in as much as Apple have taken the only action available - they removed the app. They shouldn't have added their own terms in the first place admittedly, but removing the app or changing App store terms are completely their choice.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Thanks, Ben!

        But I still don't understand. We're not talking about 5 devices in total. And the app store isn't the only distribution route to these devices. Sounds like a bit of a pissing content over nothing, eh?

        1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

          RE: Thanks, Ben!

          >> But I still don't understand. We're not talking about 5 devices in total. And the app store isn't the only distribution route to these devices.

          Well actually, unless you buy development tools and learn how to use them, or you break the licence terms of the software running on the device (and the associated technical measures put in to enforce them), then the AppStore **IS** the only route for putting software on your i<wotsit>.

          Whether it's of practical relevance or not, the GPL is quite clear that if a piece of software is under the GPL, then anyone who receives the software is permitted to redistribute both it and derivative works as long as they distribute it with the GPL intact. So it doesn't matter that anyone else can get the program from the AppStore, any one person is contractually allowed (by the GPL) to redistribute it - but Apple's terms specifically prohibit that.

          Apple cannot remove the GPL licence from the software, and neither can the person who ported it - without the express permission of every holder of the copyright in the software (in practical terms, everyone who contributed to it). And since Apple weren't prepared to make their store system compatible with the requirements of GPL software - they've removed it.

          For Apple this is great - it reduces the competition since they've ruled out any GPL software going on the AppStore. Allowing redistribution as required would have broken their control over users devices. Note the bit about "derivative works" I mentioned ? Well it means that anyone could get GPL software from the AppStore, and would be entitled to the source. They would also be legally entitled to redistribute not only the version on the AppStore, but also derivative works - ie versions NOT approved by Apple.

          If the software were under GPL V3, then part of the requirement (added in GPL V3 to prevent a repeat of the TIVO debacle*) would require the distribution also of all information needed to build a working derivative. That means, you would need to distribute enough information to build a binary that would run on an i<wotsit> - and that means being able to sign it without Apple getting involved.

          * TIVO took GPL software and complied with the letter of the licence. However, they built a system where you could get the code as required, and you could modify it as required, and you could distribute it as required. Trouble is, they used a signing technique that meant that only official TIVO versions would run.

          GPL doesn't sit well with Apple because it doesn't allow them to control the users use of their devices. This test case simply allows Apple a good way to prevent most users of i<wotsit>s from ever using GPL'd software and reliasing how much they are missing.

      2. Anonymous Coward


        Is it not more like that the dev added the terms, Apple may well have not been aware of the GPL it was under, the dev submits it (for whatever reason), Apple are informed and they the do right thing...

        1. Ben Tasker

          Not really

          Erm... no.

          The dev added the original license, it was Apple who added the terms (whether deliberately or otherwise).

          Maybe the Dev didn't know about the term, maybe Apple were unaware? Makes little difference to what the end effect was.

          If Apple were unwilling to change App store policies, then it should be removed. Which it has been, hence my saying it was a bit of a non-issue (especially if both sides were both unaware of their relevant bits at time of submission).

          Question: Are you the same A/C who's been through all the other Apple stories slating any anti--apple comments? Why post A/C if you believe that strongly?? If you've an opinion, be proud of it and put your name to it!

          Not that I'm saying you shouldn't have a right to anonymity, I just like to know who I'm talking to (even if it's just a pseudonym)

          1. Disintegrationnotallowed
            Thumb Up

            Some will be not all!

            Anonymous was set by default when I commented on some more "choice" stories (non apple), where I couldn't leave any links (even via pseudonym).

            I don't mind people not liking apple or their products, but the FUD is unbelievable on here, as you have said this is a complete non-issue, but I guess "Apple complies with FSF policy and GPL license" is less interesting headline than this story.

            Apple users might miss out on open office, other GPL stuff, but what is Apples loss is Androids gain.. Everyone is a winner..

          2. ThomH

            @Ben Tasker

            I really don't think it was Apple that added the terms. Without checking, I'll wager that the submitter is explicitly responsible and liable for ensuring compliance with all necessary intellectual property laws and agreements, just as they would be if they decided to rip off somebody else's trade mark. And the developer programme licence no doubt indemnifies Apple against any loss they may suffer due to misrepresentation by the submitter.

            If the FSF were to take the issue to court, I'd be surprised if they seek anything beyond nominal damages, as the whole thing is probably just down to some enthusiastic developer who didn't read all the legal print.

            1. Amonynous

              Money for nothing?

              The whole app store 30%/1lb of your flesh thing is unsustainable in the long run. No problem with you building a device/software stack and selling it for cost + mark-up, but to expect the rest of the world to make you a billionaire of the back of some legal weasel words and no effort on your part? Please!

  28. Antidisestablishmentarianist


    Poor little freetards


      Freeloaders indeed...

      > Poor little freetards

      Yes. Why should we expect corporations to obey the law or honor licenses.

  29. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    The FSF are a bunch of egotistical hypocrites.

    They've done a bang-up job of convincing all and sundry that Public Domain doesn't exist for a start. If I wanted to give back to the community, I know which I'd use: Public Domain. No egotistical demands for credit no matter how much you've changed my work. No puerile attempts to tell others what they can and cannot do with my donated labour. Just the code. No strings attached. THAT is what donation should be like.

    As for the FSF's assertion that "Apple doesn't value people's independence and creativity"—and leaving aside the fact that the App Store has plenty of examples of both—Final Cut Studio and Logic Studio also prove otherwise. As does OS X itself, which is (a) built on the Open Source Darwin core, and (b) more than happy to run Open Source stuff.

    It's only Apple's consumer electronics gear which is closely tied to their App Store.

    Besides, if Open Source is your bag, why are you bothering with iPhone? I thought Android was supposed to be doing really well!

    1. Jean-Luc
      Thumb Up


      Long live the BSDs.

      Though I am unsure how much Apple _contributes_ back to thank the community for OS X's underpinnings. With BSD, they don't _have_ to though and that is fine by me. If I ever write worthwhile-to-release and willing-to-maintain software, I will go BSD myself.

      Mind you, thinking of Apple as cuddly is akin to thinking that a jellyfish is a squeeze ball. Regardless of the merit of its products.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    I hate to point out the obvious

    ^ but here we go:

    1, You can have it on up to 5 devices ... but how many people have got 5 iPhones or iPads?

    2, You could always just install it on a device, remove it from iTunes, download it again and install it on another device. This would allow you to put it on as many devices as you like...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      ahhh but thats not the point is it!

      Then they could not have made such a big song and dance of it...

      <- No such thing as bad publicity ask Paris

    2. Ben Tasker

      Im guessing

      It's probably more the principle than the practicalities?

      1. James O'Shea

        It's Stallman

        He's being a righteous twit. As usual.

    3. Binkley
      Thumb Down

      Ummm...not too hard really

      My family and I have 4 iThingies (iPhone or iPod), one for each of us and we share the same iTunes store account. Not unusual from where I sit...

  31. TeraTelnet

    If you have more than five Apple devices ...

    ... that you would want to use this on at once, are you really going to care about spending another $2 to get an extra five uses?

  32. David Kelly 2

    FSF isn't really free

    By this action the so-called Free Software Foundation demonstrates once again that the use of IP governed by their license isn't really free.

  33. zooooooom


    Go isn't all that important, but this precident is. The app-store model and locked down computing platforms is incompatible with the GPL - thats a *lot* of software that all open platforms will have available. The world doesn't care about Go too much, but just wait for the flap when you can't install OpenOffice/GIMP on your iPad or iWhateverNext and the price of the commercial alternatives starts to impact purchasing decisions :-)

    1. James O'Shea

      unlikely to matter

      I, for example, have Open Office on my Mac (and on my Win 7 box) but I rarely use it because it's, well... clunky. Open Office takes longer to load on the Mac than MS Word does, and God knows that Word takes forever and a day. The _only_ time I use Open Office is when someone sends me an .ODT file. And even then I use it only 'cause Lotus Symphony, which will also read ODT, is even clunkier. I expect that most users will never need more than the iWork for iPad stuff... and that's an extra $10/equivalent in Euros/Pounds/Yen/whatever for each item, or $30 total. <> Another $30 on top of the $500 or so for an iPad is not going to make a significant difference. And if it does... well, IBM should be trotting out Lotus for iPad Real Soon Now, so those who like free can have their clunky fix then.

      As for the GIMP... whenever there's an update to the GIMP I download it and try it out to see if it's worth using. So far I've deleted it within a day of downloading, every time. Sorry, but it simply doesn't do what I want graphic software to do. Not that I'd be using an iPad for graphical work, anyway.

      Nah, the lack of GPL software in the App Store will be significant only to those who already like GPL software, which is not the target market for iPads. Apple, and its customers, will not care. And it's not as if having GPL software would attract the Tuxers, anyway; see the various comments on this very thread from those who are most likely to favor GPL, they all wouldn't buy an iPad in the first place.

    2. copsewood
      Jobs Horns

      Go probably matters enough to some IPad users

      Who are very unlikely to buy I-anything in future because of this. If free software is worth developing and promoting, business models based upon controlling users will ultimately have to be destroyed. If that means killing the market for user-controlling devices all well and good.

  34. Bod
    Jobs Horns

    Good on them (FSF & GPL that is)

    I'm not a complete fan of the GPL myself, but the spirit of the licence is such that everyone must comply in a likewise fashion. No exceptions.

    Flies in the face of Steve's attack on Adobe for not being "open" when he has to be slapped down for breaching the terms of exactly what true "open source" is all about. That on top of the fact that Apple is about as closed as you can get anyway.

    So I hope all GPL apps are now pulled (if there are any others). How much of OS X is GPL anyway? Surely if there is any Apple are in breach there too on not only all iProduct but the Mac, as they strictly control what devices you can run the OS on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I might be wrong

      But isn't the OSX built upon a BSD Kernel, using an BSD license - which is less restrictive than the GPL?

      - Posted from my Windows Box

  35. Stuart 22

    I'm confused

    Is there any physical restriction stopping me sharing the download with six devices?

    If I do so and Apple come after me for breach of contract I produce the GPL which overrides Apple's. No contest. Apple's lawyers wouldn't even waste their time surely?

    1. Doshu

      If anything

      there *might* be a restriction in itunes or something when it comes to syncing more than said number of devices -- can't be sure, don't own that many devices.

  36. R Cox

    Perpetuating the viral myth

    This article, and several of the comments, are clearly intended to perpetuate the myth that the GPL is a viral license that will destroy any legitimate business. In this case a developer used GPL code and distributed it in a manner that the developer knew or should have known would violate the GPL. Everyone and their dog knows about the 5 device limit.

    When Apple learned about this they cut the distribution method, thus guaranteeing that no other developer would use GPL code for the iPhone by guaranteeing that there would be no legitimate way to distribute any binary. Case closed. There is no reason for FSF to be disappointed. If the purpose of the GPL is to guarantee that code will remain open, then that is exactly what happens.

    The problem is that some people are not happy unless the entire world works the way they want. These people either want everything covered under the GPL or civilization to end. They are bigots. They are the ones that give ammunition to the likes of MS to characterize the GPL as a viral license that will destroy businesses. I suspect this example will be used everywhere as a reason to avoid the GPL. Look at Apple, everyone will say. They did the right thing by pulling a product that violated the GPL, and now everyone is criticizing them. Those GPL folks can't be trusted.


      A new ultra-proprietary low...

      The problem is that a lot of people like to do what they please with their own property. This flap with the GPL only highlights a problem that applies equally well to any bit of proprietary software that Apple doesn't approve of. Apple has chosen to make their new platform specifically hostile to Free Software rather than just neutral to it like Windows or MacOS is.

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Developers can submit their own License

    I'm pretty sure developers can submit their own license for their product during submission. If they don't, then the Apple license applies.

    Of course this only applies to the end product, not the source, but I don't see why it should matter since the source is not Apple's regardless.

  38. Dodgy Dave

    FSF can boil their heads

    The GPL serves to promote closed-source development, by keeping its code base so far apart from the world of commercial software.

    There are many developers who would be happy to contribute patches and improvements to a bit of open-source code if they could use it in their employer's products. With the GPL they can't (the Linux kernel being the exception that proves the rule).

    So there is an entirely unnecessary set of paid-for toolkits and libraries out there whose existence is entirely due to fear generated by the FSF. Fortunately the world is waking up to this, and a lot of useful code is now coming out under Mozilla- or BSD- type licences.


      Nonsense anti-GPL FUD.

      > The GPL serves to promote closed-source development, by keeping its code base so far apart

      > from the world of commercial software.

      Nonsense. Companies like EA and Oracle can exploit Free Software quite readily.

      It's those companies that want to take liberties with other people's property that usually have problems with the GPL.

  39. Tom 7

    It was never a problem with the GPL

    You don't have to distribute the code with the app to comply with the GPL so all the author had to do was ensure that there was a way of the app 'owner' of being able to get the code.

    Apple wouldn't allow that - its their problem not the GPL.

    As for the GPL being bad for business - yes it is for those that want to take others work and use it for free and good riddance to them too.

  40. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    "not a big deal"

    To paraphrase steve jobs "let the submitter turn off the 5 device limit. Not a big deal." to you guys who say this restriction is ok, it is if it's your own code. But this isn't. It's gpl, which requires the source to be available and no redistribution restrictions. Quit the Apple fanboiism, they *could* allow this but they don't. Which is within apple's rights for sure but don't make excuses for apple about it.

    As for being incompatible w/ commercial products -- a lot of libraries use lgpl, you can link that code in without having to open your source. For gpl, tough shit. You are expecting something for nothing. If you are reusing gpl code for free, your product is bound by gpl, deal with it, use bsd code, or public domain, buy code, or write it yourself. Some gpl projects are dual license so you can use code for free & gpl your product, or pay up and not open your source.

  41. alwarming
    Paris Hilton

    FSF > Linux > android > iphone

    From what I understand FSF considers Linux too commercial, linux considers Android too commercial (and, besides the point but, Android considers iphone too commercial).

    :1,$s/considers \([a-Z][a-Z]*\) too commercial/wants the world to believe \1 is not good for them/

    Point being there are internal politics in FSF world as well. And the Daddy is currently being knocked into irrelevance by the step-child (and step-child's richer altho illegitimate child). The whole mud slinging on (stinkin) apple is about trying to reclaim the same venerable position it enjoyed once in a world dominated by big box mainframes and Unices.

    I am afraid this strategy has FAIL written all over it - because this time the LUSER IS not really the big bad corp, but A LOYAL FSF DEVELOPER (I am unable to take a long term view of things here when android/gplphone would beat the shit out of iphone *because* it is GPL complaint).

    And winner is not a bunch of code deprived geeks but nobody really (discounting smugness).

    This is not some 70s IBM too closed to dish out software to let the geek at the customer site/MIT play with it. It's not even 90s MS - which, btw, still dominates the PC. This is the retail gadgets world. The avg sucker is no longer computer literate/enthusiast. Software is really cheap here. And many other rules of the game are a bit different this time around. Instead of reinventing itself, FSF is playing the game it has always played and hopes to win using it's trusted trump card(after all GPL gave FSF partial bragging rights on Linux and emacs).

    I'll be put my money on everybody else this time, even though I generally share the view that Linux revolution couldn't have happened (not in the same way for sure) without FSF's GPL.


    PS:I don't think this episode has anything to do with GPL being viral at all, but someother (lesser known) clauses of GPL.

    Paris, coz she is like GPL - once something goes into her. it must be made public & downloadable for years.

  42. James Woods

    a stupid question gets a stupid answer

    or in this event, a stupid submission gets a stupid result.

    this is no different than people in the US (mostly celebrities) saying boy you know people in other countries don't have freedom of speech and they can't walk down the street with their same-sex partner. Yet all the while spitting on the people over here that have fought for and enjoy these 'rights'.

    However, that's how the world is and we should respect other countries that aren't as debased as ours here in the US.

    Why these open source people think they're going to get anywhere with a company that basically implements child & slave labor in China is beyond me.

    The goal of free software isn't to have an society where everyone has a begging cup out working for free, at least that's not how I see it. Free software has provided alot of good to the world. However companies like Apple do not; it's all about the bottom line. Even if you have to outsource your product to china all the while charging top dollar for it over here.

    People whine at the thought of paying more for a head of lettuce if american workers pick it yet will pay $500+ for these pieces of crap.

    Guess changing the world failed this time. Better luck next time!

  43. blackworx

    If this is such a non-story...

    ...then why are you all getting your knickers in a twist about it?

    All these words like "arrogant", "self-righteous", "egotistical" which the FSF may or may not be, don't seem to apply in this case. They highlighted a violation and Apple dealt with it in the way they would be expected to. The FSF are on record as having highlighted the violation in public this time round because they wanted remove the mystery/speculation when yet another bit of software was yoinked from the "App Store" for what would have otherwise seemed to be no good reason.

    The FSF weren't being histrionic about it or getting all riled up and threatening to sue; in fact the only people I see getting wound up are certain foam-mouthed commentards whose pantyhose seem to have flown off at the mere fact that an IT news site has had the temerity - nay, audacity - to publish this IT story involving one of the industry's best-known players and, horror of horrors, didn't use it as an excuse to lay in to the FSF.

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