Apple Pulls VLC From The iOS App Store

Apple Pulls VLC From The iOS App Store

We were pretty excited when VLC, our favourite multi-format video player, dropped for iOS, but it looks like the sun has already set on that glorious endeavor.

Just as we’d heard it might, VLC has been removed from the App Store—though not at Apple’s request. Rémi Denis-Courmont, a lead contributor to the project, decided that the the DRM in the App Store violated the GNU public licence, requesting that Apple remove it. We’re not sure we buy that the principles of the GPL are more important than the availability of a great app—for free, mind you—to millions of users. Worse, it doesn’t set the best precedent for other open source projects, especially with the Mac App Store having similar DRM features. We hope you all grabbed your copy while you had a chance. [via TUAW]


  • Of course the principles of the GPL are more important!

    VLC is a significant piece of code, which was developed over many years involving the effort of hundreds of people. This includes not only people who directly coded it, but also the many people behind the scene who (totally legally!) reverse engineered the proprietary and undocumented codecs which it supports.

    Those people gave their time freely, on the understanding that their work would be licensed under the GPL. That license specifically prevents the use of that code in certain situations, most notably when an individual or corporation tries to use it in a way which removes the rights of the users.

    That is exactly what Apple does. I know the GPL quite well, and I see no ambiguity whatsoever in the incompatibility between the Apple store and the GPLv2 and GPLv3.

    A cool as VLC on iPhone was, it was a violation of the license. This was no different to piracy or code theft. The assertion by Whitson Gordon that his right to own a cool app overrides the rights of those people who freely contributed their time to it’s development is offensive and ignorant.

    And on the subject of ignorance: a little more research, next time. “Open Source” and “GPL-licensed” aren’t the same thing. I’d explain why, but I suspect it wouldn’t make it past Wilson’s “I wanna own cool apps” stupidity.

    • +1.

      I would like to have seen the software on the IOS. Its good that he has stuck to the principles of Open source software (from their website).

      He should be thanked for his efforts although the descision should have come from the VLC team.

      • I completly agree with this decision, as a Linux / Android man myself, i despise almost everthing that Apple stand for, and so this is music to my ears.

        Open source is open.

        Apple is closed

        you cant have your cake and eat it as well

      • @ wsDK_II “I completly agree with this decision, as a Linux / Android man myself, i despise almost everthing that Apple stand for, and so this is music to my ears.”

        Right so you despise the OS and device which Android devices are a wholis-bolis copy of (except for the smooth UI). Well good for you and you ignorance of what it takes to produce a break-through device like an iPhone and why a company might want to protect that investment in some ways.

  • People who buy Apple equipment should know by now that they are surrendering their rights to choose software to Apple, presumably in return for possessing a “really cool” piece of equipment. If you want access to free GNU-licensed apps, get an Android device.

    • From the original TUAW article:
      “While VLC is available free of charge for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the App Store, it’s not possible to copy it from one device to another. Every copy of an iOS app is tied to a specific user account when it is downloaded, regardless of whether you pay for it or not. The GPL requires that any software using that license and any derivative works be able to be freely copied and distributed.”

    • I think the License agreement with the App store was contradictory to the GNU agreement. I remember reading somewhere that under the GNU agreement all contributed code needs to return to the community (be open sourced), however the App store agreement says you can’t publish the source code. So If you do one this you violate the agreement of the other.

    • I imagine the problem stems from s6 in GPLv2 – which has to do with redistribution. If there’s DRM there (even if the DRM were a “free” thing in the minimal sense, that it was not costing you any money) then there’s restrictions which could be seen to impede that section.

      And really, there is a problem in that regard.

      If you want to redistribute things on iOS (that is, through the app store) I’m pretty sure you have to pay a submission fee anyhow.

      Here’s a similar situation with a port of GNU Go that was (is? I don’t know I have an ipod touch but don’t bother with any of the apps) on itunes:

  • As a developer I’ve never liked the GPL, they claim to be so open, but it is very restrictive.

    Any code i publish (which granted isn’t a whole lot, and mostly snippets) is basically unlicensed, just do whatever you want with it but don’t blame me if anything goes wrong, just like any non-commercial apps i release are like 5 line licenses for indemnity etc)

  • This is an interesting problem. People have flocked like lemmings to the Apple platform without realising the ironfisted grip they have on DRM. We pined for a decade at M$ for it’s non-sensical efforts to control our free-choices. But this argument is no where to be seen with Apple. Also, if someone produces an app that does not infringe on IP, nor seek to profit from it, should apple be under any obligation to withhold the app.

    Or is it more the case of Apple preventing an application that could later be used to subvert it’s own DRM in iTunes/QuickTime player ? Would we have this problem with the Android market ?

    We have all been duped by Apple !

    • Paul,

      Yes, the GPL was designed to be beneficial to end users. Specifically, it was designed to prevent companies like Apple from taking away the rights of users to use GPL-licensed software freely.

      Apple’s licenses are exactly the opposite of this: they impose onerous restrictions on what users may do with a DEVICE THEY OWN. Go look at Job’s definition of “freedom” if you really want cold chills about Apple’s corporate nature. Frankly, they’re a walking anti-trust suit right now, and make 90’s-era Microsoft look positively benign.

      But the removal of user rights is why the GPL-licensed VLC is incompatible with Apple’s app store license. The problem is not the GPL: it’s the app store’s license which needs to change.

      • I could list DOZENS of apps that are not available in the App store I couldnt live without – SBSettings, Winterboard, Cylay, etc etc. If i d’load an App i like I will then pay for it. Not being able to trial apps first is crazytown…

      • Here’s my reasons:
        * SBSettings – swipe toolbar (where signal/clock/battery sits) to access quick toggles for settings such as lock rotation, User Agent Faker, Kill processes – all of which can only be done on JB iPhones
        * 5 icon dock
        * Folders in iOS 3.x
        * Numeric Batter / Signal
        * Theming
        * Hundreds of free (usually Open Source) games
        * Oh, and let’s not forget VLC! It has been ported to Cydia (ie; JB iDevices) since Apply pulled it.

        I jailbroke my iPhone 3GS as soon as I got it, and haven’t used it for a single illegal purpose.

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