Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 9th May 2011 21:46 UTC
Apple Apple has released the source code for WebKit in iOS 4.3, which it had been withholding for eight weeks. However, according yo Jay 'saurik' Freeman, they are still not, and never have been, in compliance with the LGPL. "Apple's provided source code (which /is/ heavily modified for the iPhone) [...] isn't even complete enough to compile (it is missing a bunch of code for the WAK* classes), so Apple has simply never been in compliance with this license," Saurik writes. So, it would seem that Apple is still violating the LGPL, and has been doing so for a very long time. Funny how this never makes it to mainstream technology sites. I guess they find their pre-release review devices more important.
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In this comment, I offer what are effectively opinions on law. I am not a lawyer in any jurisdiction. Do not construe the following as legal advice. If I am wrong about some fact, I welcome correction with the appropriate citation.

In fact, even end users are harmed when apple violates licenses. Many end users do benefit from having access to the source code. It doesn't matter if they are a minority or not, the copyright holders entitled them to it when they published code under the LGPL.

As I've told others, if Apple is in violation of the license they should fix the violation by releasing source code as appropriate—that is (I hope!) uncontroversial. That is the legal issue, and it is pretty straightforward.

But I repeat: even if Apple is in violation, how are end users harmed? Even assuming that released source code is a benefit that end users want, not receiving a benefit is not, per se, harm. So tell me: if I buy an iPhone and use it, how am I harmed by not having the source code to WebKit? This is not a rhetorical question. Please answer, because it's become apparent to me that either I am missing some reasoning somewhere, or else other people aren't being rational.

Apple is not entitled to withhold their source code changes while distributing the object code.

Says you. Apple says differently, apparently. I don't know who's right; that's why we have judges.

If apple disregards their obligations, end users who depended on having access to the source code (and are entitled to it), are undeniably harmed.

But end users, by definition, don't depend on access to source code. Source code is useful only to developers.

It makes for an interesting question, what if an open source owner died before transferring ownership? Could non-copyright holding end users legally coerce a company to distribute their modifications to the code as required by the license? Or is the company legally sheltered from fulfilling it's open source obligations because the copyright holders are gone?

Actually, this is a boring question because it's easily answered. At no point is the copyright holder ever "gone." When people die they transfer all their assets, including held copyrights, either in accordance with a will or other instrument, or in accordance with local law. Either way, it's pretty clear-cut, from what I understand: whoever inherits would then hold the copyright, just like the original owner. That person would then have standing to go after license violations. End users never have standing to go after license violations.

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