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GPL Enforcement in Apple's App Store

Filed under
OSS

An iPhone port of GNU Go is currently being distributed through Apple's App Store. However, this distribution is not in compliance with the GNU GPL. The primary problem is that Apple imposes numerous legal restrictions on use and distribution of GNU Go through the iTunes Store Terms of Service, which is forbidden by section 6 of GPLv2. 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.

(Unfortunately, instead of amending their terms of service to work with the GNU GPL, Apple have decided to remove GNU Go from the App Store. Please read our follow up report)

In most ways, this is a typical enforcement action for the FSF: we want to resolve this situation as amicably as possible. We have not sued Apple, nor have we sent them any legal demand that they remove the programs from the App Store. The upstream developers for this port are also violating the GPL, and we are discussing this with them too. We are raising the issue with Apple as well since Apple is the one that distributes this software to the public; legally, both parties have the responsibility to comply with the GPL.

The only thing we're doing differently is making this announcement. Apple has a proven track record of blocking or disappearing programs from the App Store without explanation. So we want to provide everyone with these details about the case before that happens, and prevent any wild speculation.

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