James Dixon’s Blog

James Dixon’s thoughts on commercial open source and open source business intelligence

Apple App Store vs FSF

with 5 comments

There was a post a few days ago on the FSF site about the GNU Go app situation


Basically the GNU Go app is GPL, which is not compatible with the terms of service of Apple’s App Store. This is the wrap-up on the FSF post:

That’s the problem in a nutshell: Apple’s Terms of Service impose restrictive limits on use and distribution for any software distributed through the App Store, and the GPL doesn’t allow that. This specific case involves other issues, but this is the one that’s most unique and deserves explanation.

We would’ve liked to see Apple do the right thing and remove these limits, but it looks like that’s not going to happen. Apple has removed GNU Go from the App Store, continuing their longstanding habit of preventing users from doing anything that Apple doesn’t want them to do. As we said in our initial announcement, this is disappointing but unsurprising; Apple made this choice a long time ago. We just need to make sure everybody else gets the message: if you value your independence and creativity, you should be aware that Apple doesn’t. Take your computing elsewhere.

I am a firm believer in the FOSS, but this is nonsense from the FSF. This position is micro-focused and blinded to the larger picture. The App store provides both free (zero-cost) and paid downloads. App developers are able to provide open source or proprietary apps. Developers have the freedom to choose. What the FSF wants Apple to do is to remove the mechanisms in place that protect the distribution of proprietary apps. My guess is that the proprietary apps account for over 98% of all iPhone and iPad apps.The FSF wants Apple to abandon those developers (>98%) in favor of the developers who believe in the Free Software philosophy (<2%).

The FSF’s position is that, by rights, software is fundamentally free and that intellectual property is bad. The FSF doesn’t like the fact that people create proprietary software. They don’t even like shareware. They think anyone creating software should give it away for free and provide the source code too. The FSF values your creativity – they value it so much they think you don’t have the rights to own your creation.

Written by James

May 28, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Posted in Apple, licenses, open source

5 Responses

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  1. Well, that seems about right. But the thing is, it’s nothing new. It’s actually what Stallman has been saying since the 80’s, applied to yet another scenario.

    If you put it into numbers (98% vs 2%), it seems ridiculous. But it’s actually nothing but a consequence of the FSF being consistent with their own beliefs.

    Tomás Di Doménico

    May 28, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    • I complete agree.

      What bugs me is the lack of realism. It’s completely unrealistic to expect Apple to remove the protection mechanisms over this.


      May 28, 2010 at 8:53 pm

  2. Absurd that you’d want to allow Apple to pilfer from the
    free software community without playing by the golden
    rule and returning the freedoms that the copyleft GPL
    guarantees to users.

    Since your entire blog concerns “open source” instead of
    free software, however, your allegiances are already clear.
    Simply don’t expect coders who care about keeping their
    code free to go along with your desire to predate on their

    Don Barry

    June 10, 2010 at 4:02 am

    • Thanks for your comment. You don’t agree with me, but I believe in your right to disagree with me.

      To your first point, the app in question was free. Apple can’t pilfer anything from an app that has no cost. There is no revenue to pilfer. In fact it was costing Apple money to host and provide bandwidth for downloads.

      To you second point, I write a lot of open source code. I put it out there for anyone to use, under any circumstance, for any endeavor. I don’t view any usage of my code by anyone to be predatory. There are no exceptions or exclusions. That is true freedom.

      I’m sure my next comment won’t be popular. I happen to think, in this case, part of the problem lies with Robota who uploaded GNU Go to the app store. The terms and conditions of the app store were pre-existing. You can’t expect Apple to change the terms just because someone uploaded an app whose license prevents it from being distributed by the app store. If that were the case, here is a get-quick-rich scheme – create an app, give it a ‘whoever distributes this owes me a $1m bucks’ license, upload it to the app store, then ask Apple for your million dollars. Both cases are equally unrealistic.

      I support your right to believe in ‘Free Software’. But I hold that those beliefs are too far removed from the beliefs, mechanics, and operations of the mainstream market to be accepted any time soon. Unfortunate, I wish it wasn’t so.


      June 10, 2010 at 4:45 am

  3. I think that the FSF HAD to come back after Apple about this… IANAL but I think that you have to defend your copyrights if you don”t want your work to fall in Public Domain (it work so for Pattents but I think there isomething similar with copyrights)

    Defending GPL’d software is also important if you want to have some credibility about the GPL…


    June 14, 2010 at 11:36 am

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