Apple would rather remove app than leave open-source license

GNU Go has disappeared from the iTunes app store. Here's why - and why Apple is wrong.

Games, both free and paid, are perennial favorites in mobile app stores. So it was no surprise that GNU Go — the free, GNU-based version of the ancient and popular game of Go — was available as a free download in the Apple iTunes store.  Until recently.complaint from the Free Software Foundation that Apple's Terms of Service violate the software's license.Terms of Service do just that, restricting where the downloads can be installed.

It disappeared as a direct result of a

GNU Go is licensed under GPLv2. Section 6 expressly prohibits any "further restrictions" on the license, which allows anyone to copy, distribute or modify the software. But the App Store's

The FSF wrote to Apple, requesting that the company allow GNU Go (and any app under GPL) to be distributed under the looser licensing terms, but Apple removed the app instead. So, I wondered, how does Google deal with situations such as this in its Android app store? I nearly got a headache from the legalese, but after reading and re-reading, it seems a very simple phrase Google includes in its Terms of Service basically eliminates this issue (emphasis mine):

10.2 You may not (and you may not permit anyone else to) copy, modify, create a derivative work of, reverse engineer, decompile or otherwise attempt to extract the source code of the Software or any part thereof, unless this is expressly permitted or required by law, or unless you have been specifically told that you may do so by Google, in writing.

Overall, Google's TOS seem just as restrictive as Apple's. And there may be some issues yet to be discovered with copyright and licensing. But in this one slight turn of phrase, Google says, "Hey! If the license of the software says you can do whatever you want with it, have at it. Otherwise, fuhggedaboutit."as popular as Apple is among open-source advocates and users, Apple wouldn't make such a simple fix to allow free, open-source apps to be propogated under the same licenses as they are elsewhere.

That one phrase is key. It enables Google to protect its copyrights and those of its app developers, but also allows software under various public licenses to propogate.

It is absolutely within Apple's rights to regulate the apps sold in or downloaded from its store. But it is not within the company's rights to enact stricter terms on the software's use. OK, maybe it is legally within the company's rights, but that doesn't make it ... right.

I'd imagine that Google's phrasing is a direct result of the open source nature of Android and the company's involvement in the open source world. But I find it puzzling that,

It's such a small thing to do. It's the right thing to do.

Image via GNU.org

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