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.
I can’t wait for VLC to get out of the App store. Some other “app” will fill the void that it leaves behind. Besides, the developers of VLC *SHOULD* be focusing on developing VLC and not making iOS “apps”. Of course, they can do whatever they want, but if they’re making efforts in the name of VLC then it should be done in a way that improves the code-base. The “app” never did this; it just bifurcated development efforts.
The GPL is restrictive, and that’s good. The restrictions prevent any one person from violating the freedoms of everybody else. Those are the kinds of restrictions that fair, just, and free societies are built on. By analogy, Apple is the kid of guy who kidnaps people and makes them live in a locked closet. I’ve never understood what the developers of VLC, who enjoy and promote freedom, decided to climb into that closet. It seems that if they really wanted to serve the abductees, then the wise thing would be to help them escape rather than smuggle a media player. As always, I think the problem here is me. I keep assuming that people are trying to make sense. Obviously, they’re not.
What makes sense is the increased usability of iOS devices with VLC app (whether legally or not) for users. It’s like trying the deny that torrents don’t make sense; who would ever want to get software for free, right?
There’s no use denying the success of the iOS platform, despite its closedness. Linux developers should not focus religiously on the “failings” of iOS and instead focus on adapting the success of iOS app stores to linux. Just as communism fail as a political and economic policy in its purest form, so does capitalism fail as a governing principle in its purest form.
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