AppStore apps under GPL license

Discussion in 'Site feedback, suggestions, and discussions' started by Ezekeel, Jul 4, 2009.

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  1. Ezekeel

    Ezekeel New Member

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    Bgizzle, mods, we have to talk. But first let me say, this is not a rant or a complain or a demand of some kind, since that would be out order. However, it think there is a thing that needs discussion.

    Three days ago I made a thread about the game Tyrian sold on the AppStore for $1.99 (http://www.ifans.com/forums/showthread.php?t=209598). This game is a port of the free software project OpenTyrian to the iPhone which is licensed under the GPL v2.0. That means that you can freely distribute this game and I provided a download link for the .ipa file.
    The thread was closed and the download link was removed with the comment that 'If the game is being sold on the App Store we will not allow redistribution here, especially as it requires certain unethical hacks to run it.'. This argument can be broken down in two point which I would like to address in the following.

    1. The game is sold on the AppStore and the devs who ported this game to the iPhone have a right to get paid for this work.

    This is true. According to the GPL v2.0 the devs have a right to distribute the game over the AppStore and ask for a fee in return. On the other hand, the GPL also gives everyone that has obtained a copy of this game the right to freely distribute it. What about this right? Is the right of the guys who ported this game to the iPhone more important than the right of the public to distribute this game freely? Why do the rights of these guys deserve more respect than the rights of billion people on this planet? You may say 'They are the devs, this is their work, so their rights are more important.'. But remember that this game is no original work, but a port of OpenTyrian, a free software game. When OpenTyrian was released the devs decided that their work should be released under the term of the GPL license which means that it can and should be distributed freely. What about respecting the wishes and rights of these guys? Why are their rights less important than the rights of the guys who ported it to the iPhone?

    2. Modifying the iPhone software to make installation of arbitrary .ipa files possible is unethical.

    A software modification cannot be ethical or unethical in itself, what matters is what you use this modification for. With the same argument you could say that jailbreaking is unethical because without it running cracked apps is also not possible. My point is, if you used this modification to install and run .ipa files of GPL programs there is nothing unethical about it.
    However, I agree that in practise this is a slippery slope since once you have this modification made, it is tempting to use it to install illegal .ipa files of non-free software.

    There are essential three option how you can handle GPL software distributed over the AppStore in the future:

    1. Make it clear in the rules that distribution of AppStore apps is not allowed, even if these apps are licensed under the GPL. This would severely amputate the rights of the public and disrespect the wishes of the orginal devs.

    2. Allow the distribution of GPL AppStore software in a way which does not involve a software modification which would also allow you to run illegal apps, for example as a .deb file. Everybody on a jb iPhone could install it without much problems, you could even put in Cydia, so you can conviently update it.

    3. Allow the distribution of GPL AppStore software as an .ipa file. Certainly most liberal approach, but I am a realist here...
  2. Chicken

    Chicken Retired Moderator

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    The forum, doesn't want ANYTHING to do with redistributing app sold on the store.

    If you make an exception for this, soon people will want exception for other games and apps.

    Eventually it will turn into a cracked app forum.

    It gives a bad impression.
  3. Duykur

    Duykur Banned

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    It is true that what you did was perfectly legal, this one of the reasons why I cannot bieleve people register under the gpl
  4. Ezekeel

    Ezekeel New Member

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    This forum does not want anything to do with illegal activities which distributing free software is not.

    So if you allow the people to distribute free software, they will demand that they can also distribute non-free software? Where is the enevitable connection between these two things?

    Can you back up this mere assumption with something more substancial? Sounds a lot like this 'If you allow gay marriage, the apocalypse will come.' nonsense.


    Your arguments are flawed.
  5. Meikura

    Meikura Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Why didn't you just take this up with studangerous via PM?
  6. bgizzle

    bgizzle Administrator Staff Member

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    The point is that at some point we have to draw a line. In principle, I agree with the OP, but the problem is that we have to prioritize. Our number 1 priority is to be a help site for jailbreaking. Messing with Apple over App Store distribution rights is not a battle tha we want to fight because a) being right != winning and b) it would impact our ability to help people jailbreak. So while in principle I support the arguments made, in practice, I will continue holding a zero tolerance policy regarding the distribution of app store binaries.
  7. Ezekeel

    Ezekeel New Member

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    Hmm ok, you got a point there. I did not even think about the possibility that Apple might actually dare to try and stop this on a legal way. Since in this case, the FSF would surely tear Apple a new one and they do have the recources to win such a battle. But still, a legal battle like this would certainly bring some practical problems in running this site and when you say, that this is not your battle to fight since this forum cares primarily about jailbreaking then I can understand that.

    Another possibility would be that someone graps the source code and compiles the binary himself. This binary would have never passed thru the AppStore, so there is no connection whatsoever with Apple. Sure, in theory they can still try to sue you for that, but I doubt that Apple is that crazy, since they exactly know they cannot win. After all, they also think jailbreaking is illegal, but still they do not try to close this forum down (or do they, I actually dunno).
  8. wereguy2

    wereguy2 New Member

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    I forwarded this to them.
  9. Teslanaut

    Teslanaut Well-Known Member

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    Things would be so much easier if Apple implemented a "Donate" button for people who create Free or Paid apps. People could donate money from their iTunes account into the Developer's accounts. As if you were paying normally for an App.
  10. studangerous

    studangerous Super Moderator Emeritus Staff Member

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    I looked at this issue for some time and my conclusion remains the same. Were you to get permission from the dev who released his app on the App Store to further redistribute it then it shouldn't be a problem. In that case it should be made to run without resort to hacking the mobileinstallation file, that basically circumvents piracy protection, which was the main issue that I had a problem with.
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