User: Password:
|
|
Subscribe / Log in / New account

FSF takes on Apple's App Store over GPL

FSF takes on Apple's App Store over GPL

Posted Jun 10, 2010 23:00 UTC (Thu) by Lefty (guest, #51528)
Parent article: FSF takes on Apple's App Store over GPL

I don't believe I so much "challenged" the FSF to conduct similar enforcement actions against Google and Microsoft as wondered why they haven't, given that there are very similar issues to the ones Brett Smith called out with respect to Apple in his postings.

I'm not "taken aback" by the FSF's extremely broad definition of a "distributor"—this isn't a new position on their part—but I do see it as a counterproductive one in the long run. If you're willing to excuse Best Buy on the basis that "they don't know what's in the boxes", then Apple equally "doesn't know what's in the boxes" of the apps that get sold through the store. They don't ask developers for source code, they don't "check licenses", and they rely on the developers' representations that the apps submitted to the App Store don't have any legal barriers to their being sold there.

I've said that the FSF can blame Apple as much as they like, but all they've done is ensure that no iPhone user (of which there are about 50 million to date) will be exposed to GPL-licensed software. If the GPL was violated by anyone, it was the developer. Apple was as much of a "victim" here as the FSF.


(Log in to post comments)

FSF takes on Apple's App Store over GPL

Posted Jun 11, 2010 3:14 UTC (Fri) by Kamilion (subscriber, #42576) [Link]

For clarity: I live in the Bay Area. I am an Apple shareholder. (Hey, a couple shares counts!) I do not own any Apple products. (They're freakin' expensive!) I use Lucid on a GIGABYTE GA-880GMA-UD2H, AMD Phenom-II X6 1055T, 4GB of OCZ Gold DDR3-1600 memory for ~$400. I'm a sysadmin. I work at Ames.

I've taken apart many Apple products. I've also seen them in pretty bad shape. (Ever seen a powerbook run over by an SUV? It *still* booted. Ethernet & External monitor, 100% data recovery on it's own power.)

Their engineering is without a doubt, top notch. They take control of *ALL* aspects of their product, better than *ANY* company I've ever seen. They have some tremendously gifted software and hardware engineers working for them. They have willingly, and with total forethought, built themselves a walled garden; and are aggressively defending their marked territory. It's theirs. They built it on practically giving people the finger and telling them, do it our way or get out. Right upfront and straightforward-like. Total honesty. You know _exactly_ where you stand with them.

They've engineered a extremely impressive and powerful unix based system that works in total harmony with their ecosystem of products. While you are in their walled garden, you are agreeing to have them act on your behalf in ways other companies simply do not have the cojones to even attempt. Bust up your ipad, or macbook pro? Applecare's got you covered, with some of the friendliest tech-help you can pay for. And man, is it ever expensive.

But if you're amenable to their terms, they offer a much stabler ecosystem than their market competitor, Microsoft. When Apple says their product does something, IT DOES IT. WITH STYLE. THE FIRST TIME. AND EVERY TIME. And easy enough for pretty much anybody to use. With Microsoft? Welll.... It's sort of a crapshoot. Will it work? Will it bluescreen? Is this driver signed? What's this executable in my tempfolder?
"AntiVirus 2010"? Sounds promising.

And yet, Apple are incredibly generous with what they develop; giving us massive amounts of very very well-tested and ingeniously designed software, with more open source license terms than ours. "Hey, do whatever, man, just don't take our name off. No strings."

Boot Camp has it's own ToS that basically lets Apple off the hook when they're not in control of the system. This is a very neon-sign obvious, and very intentional 'backdoor' right down to the hardware, unlocked and fully open. But you're own your own if you go that route, and they make this abundantly clear. Abundantly clear as in "Secret Hideouts" in children's cartoons. The ones with the giant neon signs stating that in fact, the building below it is indeed either a Secret Hideout of some nefarious character or the Secret Hideout of the heroic character.

The iPhone and it's larger cousin, the iPad, are appliances. They are not computers. Apple has *EVERY* aspect of them covered in-house but the applications, where they only *want* to go so far, making sure people make good use of what was engineered for them to be 'accepted' into the App Store.

This is their way.

We have our own way; and the viral nature of the GPL can be both a blessing and a curse. We stand for things other than they do; we believe in total openness and freedom, and stamped that freedom down in stone as well. We stick to our guns just as they stick to theirs. We have just as much right to do it our way as they have to do it their way. It's not a competition, we don't have to 'recruit' people, it's simply a choice. Allowing someone to make a choice by bringing Open software in front of them and letting them weigh the benefits for themselves without coercion.
That is freedom. Making choices for yourself.

We don't choose to be better than everyone else.
We simply aim to do the best we can for ourselves and manage to overachieve for others.

But hey, it works for us. It's our itch -- We tend not to cater to people that aren't computer users like ourselves; Apple does. They're good at that. And better yet, they're successful at it.

I can put it like this.
You can hand someone an iPad and tell them "touch this" and they will be fully engrossed in exploring it for hours because of it's fluidity and distinct lack of 'computer pain'.

You can hand the same person practically any other modern touch based device, and it's impossible to shut them up about every little flaw in it.

Except maybe a Nintendo. But if you peer into their history, they paved the way for the same type of successes Apple is seeing now. A focus on fluidity and immersion is a core part of the Nintendo experience, and it always has been. Their quality and attention to detail keeps people both old and young coming back to their products. Apple's trying to give people the same timeless appliance quality as the venerable Super Nintendo.

And going about it in much the same way ;)
Golden Nintendo seal of quality, anyone?

FSF takes on Apple's App Store over GPL

Posted Jun 11, 2010 6:42 UTC (Fri) by laf0rge (subscriber, #6469) [Link]

Whether or not David Schlesinger approves of the FSFs action or that companies like 'best buy' are considere distributors:

The legal situation is quite clear. Even if you are a retail store that is selling some products containing software (either on CD/DVD, or on flash memory inside an embedded product): You are bound by copyright law and you need to make sure you have the right to distribute those copies.

If that is practical or not, it is an existing legal situation. And it is in many cases the only way how to ensure GPL compliance at all, e.g. if those retailers buy directly from a foreign vendor, or they buy from a source that is unknown - the only lead is to go after such distributors.

The claims you may have against them might be different than against the original infringer (if there is such an entity), but still you can ask them to stop their behavior in violation of copyright.

FSF takes on Apple's App Store over GPL

Posted Jun 11, 2010 13:59 UTC (Fri) by Lefty (guest, #51528) [Link]

Anyone who claims the "legal situation" of Apple's being a "distributor" under the GPL is "clear" doesn't actually understand the legal situation.

Actually, the "legal situation" is completely unclear, at least of anything other than wishful thinking. The FSF's interpretation (of its own license) says that Apple's a "distributor" under the GPL, no question of that. There's a serious question as to whether a judge would agree, and no one's in a position to answer that, short of a court case.

In any case, the FSF has effectively told Apple that (again, in the FSF's view) Apple is somehow liable for the copyright infringement committed by Robota Softwarehouse, and the law certainly doesn't support that view.

The upshot, as I've been saying, is that if it's impossible for end developers to indemnify Apple (or Best Buy or WalMart) against the sort of "enforcement action" that the FSF has engaged in here, then Apple, Best Buy and WalMart will ensure that they make no GPL-licensed software available to consumers. Apple's apparently already done that.

No, it's not practical: it's hugely self-defeating in my view. But if the FSF wants to ensure that "free software" is painted into an ever-smaller corner, this is a fine way to go about it.

FSF takes on Apple's App Store over GPL

Posted Jun 12, 2010 2:00 UTC (Sat) by dvdeug (subscriber, #10998) [Link]

I work at a big-box retailer. All the time we get recalls of product, because it's not legal for us to sell. Usually, these are recalls of mislabeled food or clothing but once or twice I've seen recalls due to copyright violations.

Any item sold in violation of the GPL is going to be the exact same thing. The FSF has explicitly said that that's what they want to happen, that they're not going to try and sue Best Buy or Wal-Mart over an accident.

Apple distributes the code. That's simple English. Apple, Wal-Mart or Best Buy can't sell illegal copies; that's the law. No one is interested in fighting a major company in court over an innocent mistake, and the FSF has shown by its actions its willingness to avoid court, so all of these companies are going to make the illegal code not available to the consumer and that's going to be the end of it.

FSF takes on Apple's App Store over GPL

Posted Jun 11, 2010 8:54 UTC (Fri) by vadim (subscriber, #35271) [Link]

I've said that the FSF can blame Apple as much as they like, but all they've done is ensure that no iPhone user (of which there are about 50 million to date) will be exposed to GPL-licensed software. If the GPL was violated by anyone, it was the developer. Apple was as much of a "victim" here as the FSF.
That's entirely fine with me. I'll just develop for other platforms. As a developer of GPL software I think there's one thing you don't understand: I don't release it under the BSD very intentionally. I'm not interested in the widest distribution possible, but in the widest distribution possible when every term of the GPL is followed. I'm not interested in compromising over this, as the GPL is really the kind of license I want. Therefore I really do prefer the software not to be distributed at all, to it being distributed against the GPL.

FSF takes on Apple's App Store over GPL

Posted Jun 11, 2010 14:22 UTC (Fri) by Lefty (guest, #51528) [Link]

I'm glad that's "fine with" you, Vadim. I assume it's "fine with" the FSF as well.

It's actually "fine with" me, too: it can only have the effect of increasing the desire of developers-in-general to go with non-GPL alternatives (e.g. clang—which Apple is pushing—and bionic—which Google is pushing—for starts) and to avoid the use of GPL-licensed code if they wish to put their efforts onto a platform—such as the iPhone—where they might actually see wide use.

While is may be "fine" for some people, it's not (in my opinion) at all healthy for the "free software movement". If the software is as "free" as the FSF wants it to be, but no one to speak of uses it (think "The HURD"), would that constitute a "victory"...?

Seems a sort of a Pyrrhic one to me.

FSF takes on Apple's App Store over GPL

Posted Jun 11, 2010 16:04 UTC (Fri) by vadim (subscriber, #35271) [Link]

Again, you're still thinking of "world domination". I personally don't care.

It's actually "fine with" me, too: it can only have the effect of increasing the desire of developers-in-general to go with non-GPL alternatives (e.g. clang—which Apple is pushing—and bionic—which Google is pushing—for starts) and to avoid the use of GPL-licensed code if they wish to put their efforts onto a platform—such as the iPhone—where they might actually see wide use.

Sure, Apple can push whatever they want. On my part I'm not interested in anything they make (too closed), and don't work on any Apple specific software. Some of it should build on OS X, but I don't offer support for it.

While is may be "fine" for some people, it's not (in my opinion) at all healthy for the "free software movement". If the software is as "free" as the FSF wants it to be, but no one to speak of uses it (think "The HURD"), would that constitute a "victory"...?

Linux has a large enough userbase for me, so I'm not really worried.

Again, I'm not interested in huge numbers for the numbers' sake. Any usage that goes against the GPL doesn't benefit me and doesn't count, even if that's a million users.

Seems a sort of a Pyrrhic one to me.

I consider it good, or worst case value neutral. My assessment is: Usage according to the GPL is +1, contrary to the GPL is -1 or 0 (depends on why), no usage is 0.

Therefore, in general, a change from infringement to compliance is excellent, and from infringement to non-usage somewhat disappointing but still an improvement.

Since I find all Apple platforms too restrictive to even consider supporting them, usage or lack of it is overall irrelevant. If it happens to work, good, if it doesn't I don't really care.

FSF takes on Apple's App Store over GPL

Posted Jun 23, 2010 18:50 UTC (Wed) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

Well, than you and Lefty simply have a different pov and goal. I'm more or less on lefty's side here, as I think Free Software is important for the world - to help poorer people, defeat evil companies and protect free speech. For that, FOSS needs to be as big as possible, preferably everywhere. So I'm less and less supportive of the FSF and more and more on the side of the FSFE which is far more practical.

If you just want to hack with some friends on cool stuff and have fun, yes, you're just fine where you are with FOSS and the FSF. If you want to move it forward because you believe it is *important* for the world, FSF is doing you a dis-favor.

FSF takes on Apple's App Store over GPL

Posted Jun 14, 2010 19:00 UTC (Mon) by aigarius (subscriber, #7329) [Link]

Actually users of free software are far less valuable to the success of the free software movement than *contributors* to free software. If you are a free software user on the iPhone platform, you are very unlikely to become a contributor, because the technical limitations prevent you from tinkering with your software that is most often required to make a contribution. Sure - you can report bugs, fix online docs and maybe translate the next version, but for majority of contributions the iPhone platform is rather useless.

If you already jailbroke your iPhone (enabling you to tinker), then you can install the software to it without AppStore.

In the end the benefit from having a GPL app be represented in Apple App Store is of miniscule benefit to the free software community. So much so, that I would argue that the benefit of this FSF action (to public awareness of free software) is actually greater than the benefits all GPL software in the AppStore has brough so far.

Other app stores on mobile devices do not suffer as much, because it is easier to install an non-approved applications onto Adroid, Maemo and even WinMo devices.


Copyright © 2017, Eklektix, Inc.
Comments and public postings are copyrighted by their creators.
Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds