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VLC developer claims App Store infringing VLC license

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By Jesse Hollington

Social Media & Software Editor, iLounge
Published: Friday, October 29, 2010
News Categories: Apps + Games, Other

Rémi Denis-Courmont, one of the primary developers of the VLC Media Player has sent a formal notification of copyright infringement to Apple regarding distribution of the VLC media player for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Denis-Courmont indicates that VLC media player is free software licensed solely under the GNU General Public License (GPL) and Apple is violating the terms of the GPL through its App Store usage rules which restrict free and open distribution of applications by applying Digital Rights Management (DRM) that prevents users from freely sharing the application.

Denis-Courmont goes on to state that although VLC is still available on the App Store, “it is to be expected that Apple will cease distribution soon” pointing to the example of GNU Go which was removed by Apple earlier this year under similar circumstances. Denis-Courmont notes that the developers who published VLC for the iPad should have been fully aware of the incompatibility of the GPL with the App Store distribution model and “they bear full responsibility for any consequences” however he also notes that “users of iOS-based devices [will] be deprived of VLC media player, as a consequence of the intransigently tight control Apple maintains over its mobile applications platform.” The GNU General Public License requires that works licensed under it must be free to be used for any purpose, freely shared with others, and open to modification by individual users to suit their needs and share those changes with others. The iOS and App Store distribution model precludes most of these uses through Digital Rights Management of the application as well as the inability for end users to create their own modifications to the source code without being a member of Apple’s iOS Developer Program.

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Comments

1

““users of iOS-based devices [will] be deprived of VLC media player, as a consequence of the intransigently tight control Apple maintains over its mobile applications platform.”’

Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s because you’re asking them to remove it from the App Store. Don’t get me wrong, VLC on the App Store seems to indeed be against the GPL. But in the end, this VLC guy will end up simply screwing over his own potential users because of principle. I say better an “infringing” VLC on the App Store rather than none at all.

Posted by snowy2004 on October 29, 2010 at 8:52 PM (PDT)

2

It’s pretty clear that it’s freely distributed, and available to all iOS users.  I guess if you’re unwilling to use the App Store at all, you’re limited…but who is that?  And quite honestly, the App Store is a heck of a lot easier way to download and install VLC than VLC’s desktop program…unlike the Mac, there’s no dmg file to mount or additional installation steps.

And wasn’t there a threat recently that VLC was going to stop updating the Mac software due to a lack of developers?  (There was…in the Apple blogs in December 2009)

Finally, end users may not be able to adapt the source code, but developers clearly can with their own VLC apps.  And quite honestly, I am personally incapable of changing VLC on the Mac or developing a VLC app for iOS.

This will lead to the removal of the app from the App Store, no question.  I wish that Mr. Denis-Courmont was more concerned about the ability of iOS users to have VLC as an option instead of finding sticky points with the GPL that could probably be re-written or adapted to allow this app in the App Store.

Posted by Chris on October 29, 2010 at 9:10 PM (PDT)

3

These pure open source nuts drive me crazy. When it gets to the point that the developer think of their precious open source values first and their actual users second then they’re in the wrong.

Posted by Ragashingo on October 29, 2010 at 9:28 PM (PDT)

4

This is why the GPL license is, IMO, at heart, a lie.

The BSD license is, IMO, the one true open source license.  A license which doesn’t allow you to do whatever you want with the code isn’t truly open.

reinharden

Posted by reinharden on October 29, 2010 at 9:56 PM (PDT)

5

What a jerk! He let the app get into the app store with the intention of using the end user as a club with which to beat Apple. There is indeed a place for open source software, but the way in which the gpl tries to infect anything that uses a gpl licensed piece of code is evil. Who are THEY to try to dictate a persons claim to his or her own labor? Stallman is an unbathed idiot savant with no social graces. He is a genius at coding and that is all. On the other hand, the stunt that SCO tried to pull was evil as well. As long as the source code contributed by open source advocates is available online, I see no moral issue. The legal issues are another matter entirely. Apple is not going to stand for some jerk trying to dictate terms and holding Apples users hostage. They will take the damn buggy app off the store. Good riddance. I am sure someone will jump in to fill the gap.

Posted by David F on October 29, 2010 at 10:47 PM (PDT)

6

Jargon aside, it’s kind of a crappy media player anyway.  It plays DIVX and other files OK—but choppy, MKV not at all, just the sound and an occasional picture.  This is on a 32gb iPhone-4.

File converted to MP4 format play much better with the iPod software.

Posted by benjitek on October 30, 2010 at 1:02 AM (PDT)

7

I am a bit bemused by this, it appears that the software was submitted just to make a point!

As for the whole open source issue, for me its a non point.
The software is distributed at no cost, and I would guess the vast majority of users (me included) would have no idea how to modify the source code, we rely on the developers!
if people want to modify it then surely they would create their own app?

Personally I like the Apple app approach, it gives me some reassurance that stuff will work and makes adding apps to my iPad nice and easy.
if people don’t like that approach they don’t have to buy the products or use the software, its their choice.
but don’t create apps just to try and score point, thats just silly!

Posted by Cyberman in nr Heathrow, London on October 30, 2010 at 5:29 AM (PDT)

8

As long as the Distributor releases the source code for VLC for iOS on their website, this shouldn’t violate the GPL.
That way, Jailbreakers can run the code through XCode and have their DRM free version.

FairPlay DRM can be argued as part of the compilation process, where instead of the Source Code being compiled for a specific Architecture and OS, (x86, x64, PPC, ARM : Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, iOS), it’s also compiled for a specific architecture, OS and user combination (ARM, iOS, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)). As long as the Source Code stays free, it doesn’t violate.

Posted by Dan Woods on October 30, 2010 at 6:15 AM (PDT)

9

And once again, the consumer loses out. Do devs really want to limit their customer base by enforcing principles? I hope the irony of this developers definition of ‘open source’ isn’t lost on anyone.

Posted by Daniel Nicholls on October 30, 2010 at 7:41 AM (PDT)

10

Goodbye and good riddance!  Downloaded VLC when it first came out, and deleted it within a few hours. Choppy playback, and no sound at times. There are better players on the app store. I hardly use VLC on my Mac anymore, so it is going in the trash bin as well. Let them go back to Linux where they belong.

Posted by Robert Newman on October 30, 2010 at 7:42 AM (PDT)

11

In compliance with the developers’ request I’ve removed VLC from my iPad - and my Mac. An *sshole of this type deserves zero support from users.

Posted by david on October 30, 2010 at 7:53 AM (PDT)

12

I wish Apple wouldn’t be so possessive about their platform and just fix their TOS.

Posted by beuc on October 30, 2010 at 8:22 AM (PDT)

13

Well, everything has pretty much been said.
This guy reminds me of a certain Linux guy that annoys me to the point of saying “who really gives a ****”?
Their egos and odd sense of free and open is more annoying than their software is useful.
I deleted from my iPad before this rant, and I don’t miss it. The only reason it’s on my Macs is to use Handbrake.
These coders may be “genius” but really, I don’t have enough med’s to cope with their idiosyncrasies.

Posted by Sb on October 30, 2010 at 11:00 AM (PDT)

14

The guy works for Nokia.

Posted by Austin R on October 30, 2010 at 11:27 AM (PDT)

15

Please, how many copyrights does VLC violate? Hope the developer gets his arrogant ### sued .

Posted by Allen Bennett on October 30, 2010 at 1:35 PM (PDT)

16

Indeed, the freetard DOES work for Nokia. Search for his name on LinkedIn.

This is PURELY an intentional mis-interpretation of license, and most likely just a political dork-move by a competitor’s employee.

Like THAT never happens. Also, according to recent tweets he does not speak for the rest of the VLC Dev Group.

Depending on how this plays out, VLC may lose developers predicated on the selfish dork.move(); of one.

-Drunky out.

Posted by Drunken Economist on October 30, 2010 at 1:46 PM (PDT)

17

I am no longer out of compliance with the developers wishes!

Thanks for caring about the users!

Posted by Joel on October 30, 2010 at 7:55 PM (PDT)

18

Okay, you submitted an app to Apple’s App Store knowing that Apple would apply DRM?! Well it’s a good thing I didn’t install VLC then. I would certainly remove it.

Posted by Gerald Shields on October 30, 2010 at 10:04 PM (PDT)

19

Well, having read the unanimous bunch of instults towards VLC, I for one definitely side with them.
The present situation results from Apple progressively locking their machines: they get what they deserve.
And yes, we buyers get what they deserve too. We knew.
Buyers for the german Wepad, which is linux-based, will have VLC.

Posted by Herve5 on October 31, 2010 at 5:22 AM (PDT)

20

If Apple removes the VLC App from the App Store will I lose it from my iPad when I sync? I kinda like it.

Posted by Mac on October 31, 2010 at 7:51 AM (PDT)

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