Open Software and App. Stores (Walled Gardens)

Last Updated On December 18th 2011

I have recently realized that the Open Software and App. Stores topic is a very sensitive & deeply divisive one. So, from a mail exchange with friends on it, I have captured below only factual and non-judgemental information which I felt is relevant to raviiyer.org.

A friend passed on this article on a Harvard Law & Comp. Sc. Professor’s view of Open software and App. Stores (Walled Gardens): http://www.law.harvard.edu/news/2011/11/30_zittrain-the-personal-computer-is-dead.html

Another friend passed on another take on this issue here: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/10/the-iconstitution-how-to-protect-user-freedom-in-an-app-store-world.ars.

GPL license incompatibility with Apple AppStore

FSF’s license compliance engineer in May 2010 on a GPL app (GNU Go) and iOS:
http://www.fsf.org/news/2010-05-app-store-compliance
&
http://www.fsf.org/blogs/licensing/more-about-the-app-store-gpl-enforcement

He states, “So today we have written to Apple and asked them to come into compliance. We would be happy to see Apple distribute these programs under the GPL’s terms, but unfortunately, it seems much more likely that they’ll simply make the problem go away by removing GNU Go from the App Store. ”

Apple responded by removing GNU Go from the App Store.

The VLC story seems similar to GNU Go (except that it perhaps is more well known): http://www.zdnet.com/blog/open-source/no-gpl-apps-for-apples-app-store/8046

This VLC developer/contributor raised the issue to Apple; the link also gives his justification for the act: http://mailman.videolan.org/pipermail/vlc-devel/2010-October/077325.html

Once again, Apple responded by pulling it out.

This link has some more info on it including what the VLC-iOS port team feels about it:
http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2010/11/the-vlc-ios-license-dispute-and-how-it-could-spread-to-android.ars

So this means that one single VLC contributor, though a major contributor, from Finland, it seems, went on his own without the backing of the VLC team in general and had the POWER to get the “derived” VLC-iOS app. pulled out of AppStore in the US!!! This seems to be an international license compliance action (Finland & US). This is an important learning for me about the POWER that any single contributor to a Free & Open Source and even Free & Open Data project has.

Now I am not questioning the ethics of the VLC contributor who sent the legal notice. It may be a completely ethical action. I do not want to comment further on the ethics of this particular case.

But what is important for me to note is the POWER of any contributor living in any country to raise a notice about license violation to any user/re-user of a software that he/she contributed to.

So raviiyer.org should bear in mind the SERIOUS IMPACT that license compliance issues can have for any of its future FOSS products.

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