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Apple picks death not compliance for open source iPhone game

App Store flouts GPL

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Apple has removed an application from the iPhone App Store after the Free Software Foundation complained that the store's terms of service undermined the application's open source license.

To the countless "inappropriate" apps Apple has ejected from its App Store, you can add GNU Go, a chess-like game that's open sourced under the GPLv2 license. Apple has been known to reject apps based on the puritanical sensitivities of Steve Jobs (here and here) and other half-explained policies (here), but this is a little different.

Apple removed an iPhone port of GNU Go from the App Store after receiving a letter from the Free Software Foundation (FSF). The FSF said the store's terms of service contradicted the GPLv2 license used by GNU Go.

The sticking point was that the App Store's terms of service says that a piece of software downloaded from the store can only be used on five devices. But the FSF said that the terms of service impose numerous legal restrictions on the use and distribution of GNU Go that are forbidden by GPLv2 section 6:

Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein.

The FSF said on its site Thursday:

Usage rules do the same thing as Apple's Digital Restrictions Management - narrowly limiting what you can do with the software - but the method is different: they work legally instead of technologically.

The group said it was happy to see Apple distribute GNU Go under the GPL's terms. As it expected, however, Apple took the option of removing the offending app rather than tearing up the iTunes business model.

The FSF called the move "disappointing but unsurprising" saying Apple doesn't value people's independence and creativity. ®

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