Linked by Hadrien Grasland on Sat 8th Jan 2011 19:28 UTC, submitted by sjvn
GNU, GPL, Open Source Some people swore to me that just because the free-software General Public License (GPL) clashes with the Apple App Store's Terms of Service (ToS), didn't mean that Apple would actually pull down GPLed apps. Well, Apple just did. Remi Denis-Courmont, a Linux developer of the popular VLC media player, has just announced that Apple had pulled the popular GPLed VLC media player from its App Store.
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Lots of developers aren't sure what they can and can't do with GPL code.

Read here

the important parts are

"The GPL is a vague license, and the vague nature of the United States copyright law compounds the issue. Does a Dynamically Linked Library constitute a derivative work? To some, it doesn't, but to the Free Software Foundation, it does.

and here ...

The harm is in the idea that one is not sure if linking to a GPL library could land a liberal-license developer, like me, in court for violating some vague part of the license.

That is the confusion that many developers face and the same reason why many companies (such as my own) have a no GPL policy.

The important thing is what actualy copyright law says, and not the stated opinion of the FSF.

Copyright law says a work is a derived work if it CONTAINS significant elements of an earlier copyrighted work.

If you dynamically link to a library, then your work simply does not contain the library. Period. This is easy to show by trying to run your work on a system where the library is not installed.

OK, the FSF might argue that your work, in dynamically linking the library, includes the functionlity of the library, but that is a very weak case. First of all, the GPL under which the library is licensed explicitly states that anyone may run the code at any time for any purpose. That should mean that you may run the code, via your application which links to it, on the system of another party as the end user, and likewise the end user may run the code. You are NOT re-distributing the GPL library, so the copyleft restrictions of the GPL simply should not apply to your code.

Secondly, it is also very relevant to note that most FOSS libraries are licensed LGPL, specifically for the purpose of clarifying that it is OK to dynamically or even statically link to the library. The LGPL has a linking exception.

Finally, proprietary applications such as this one:
call the Linux kernel and a raft of libraries extensively. No-one is threatening them in court, there is not even a hint of it, even coming from the FSF. The ONLY court cases involving GPL compliance issues have occurred when someone HAS included GPL code directly within in a product (not mere linked it, but directly cut and paste the GPL code into their product), and then re-distributed that product as closed source.

Those are the ONLY cases where there has been an issue.

VLC for iOS is certainly another such a case. VLC for iOS does unquestionably include GPL source code (from the VLC project), and Apple's App store does unquestionably redistribute that very code. Therefore, in order to be compliant with the license for VLC code, and compliant with copyright law, as a clear coase of being a derived work, VLC for iOS must comply with the license conditions for VLC, and the license in question is GPL.

It is pretty crystal clear really.

I think anyone who professes to be confused about this is simply trying one on, frankly.

Edited 2011-01-09 13:22 UTC

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