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Apple Spits on Software Freedom



Summary: Apple's action in the face of GPL violations speaks volumes about the company's attitude

Apple has come under fire for GPL violations. The FSF accused Apple and provided specific details, at least in this followup post we have not yet mentioned.

Since our announcement yesterday that we were pursuing a compliance case involving GNU Go in Apple's App Store, we've received a lot of questions about the details of the conflict between the GPL and Apple's terms of service. For those of you who are interested, we're providing those details here.

Let's start by making sure everybody's on the same page: in order to use the App Store, you have to agree to the iTunes Store Terms of Service and/or the App Store Terms of Service. You can confirm this yourself just by reading the documents: they say as much in their all-caps preambles. The two documents are pretty similar; this post will give section numbers from the App Store Terms of Service, but the same language appears in the iTunes Store Terms of Service and so our analysis applies identically to it. You can read both those documents on Apple's site, and we have a copy of that page as it exists today to provide this commentary.


Apple's response? Here is how the evidence was handled:

Apple these days has a base strategy.

Killing an app because it has a GPL license and your store policies conflict with the GPL is a base strategy. The Free Software Foundation made a political complaint. Apple acted in the way of a base politician — if the other side hates it then it must be good.


Joe Brockmeier concludes:

It is disappointing that Apple took this route. The company could accommodate copylefted software, but chooses not to. The question is whether Apple's disdain for openness is going to cost it any significant business.


Apple is "leveraging open source" or to avoid euphemisms and put it more bluntly (as we did in our IRC channel this afternoon), Apple is just exploiting free (as in "free beer" in its own eyes) code.

“Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?”

--Steve Jobs

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