Well how’s this for a strange turn of events? You know how apps that get booted out of the app store are usually removed by Apple because they violate one or more of the company’s terms for the App Store? It turns out that Apple doesn’t have any problem at all with VLC media player for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. But it looks like the developers of the original VLC software do have a problem with Apple’s app store.
Basically, VLC is open source software licensed under the GPL… which means that the original software and any works derived from it have to be free and open source… which isn’t entirely the case when you get the app from the App Store, since it includes DRM.
Basically, when you get an app from the App Store, Apple imposes restrictions on how you can use and distribute the application, and that’s a violation of the GPL.
The long and short of it is that Apple will likely remove VLC from the App Store, not because it violates Apple’s rules, but because the App Store violates GPL’s rules. Maybe we’ll see a new version of VLC show up in the Cydia store for jailbroken iOS devices at some point, or maybe third party developers will port the app to Google Android or another platform which doesn’t include the same kind of use and distribution restrictions.
Theoretically, fighting to enforce the provisions of the GPL in cases like this could force Apple to see the error of its ways and make changes to accommodate apps like VLC. In reality, that seems highly unlikely, which means that one of the best third party video players for iOS is likely to just disappear from the App Store.
In other words… if you haven’t downloaded VLC for your iOS device yet, you might want to do it now before it’s gone.
Update: And… it’s gone.