back to article Apple picks death not compliance for open source iPhone game

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 …


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  1. John Gamble


    I realize that this is tangential to the subject of the article, but calling Go "chess-like" shows an extreme lack of knowledge of chess, or go, or both.



  2. Rippy

    Surely "Liberty or Death"?

    Sounds to me like Stallman proclaimed "Give GnuGo liberty or give it death" and The Steve responded "OK, hand me the ax".

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fair enough!

    That's exactly how GPL is meant to be and I have no problem at all with it.

  4. James O'Shea Silver badge

    that's it

    And Stallman went in _knowing_ that the iSteve had his ax handy.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very chess-like

    There's pieces, you take turns, and the computer always wins.

    On-topic: Apple's attitude to Open Source has been clear for a long time: thanks for the code and so long, suckers. It's the same old Dinosaur it's always been, trying to find ways to lock users in to non-standard hardware, non-standard file formats, non-standard leads, non-standard Apple-brand everything. Those who run away from competition surely are those most afraid that their emperor has in fact no clothes.

  6. spencer
    Thumb Down


    Apple's attitude to Open Source has been clear for a long time: thanks for the code and so long, suckers.

    How do explain webkit then? Thats open source and maintained by apple (and others).

  7. Trygve

    Dinosaur emperors with no clothes

    Interesting that Apple and MS between them are worth nearly half a trillion dollars.

    One could be forgiven for thinking that short of being a major participant in the oil market, shunning open source in all its forms is the single most profitable economic activity on the planet.

  8. vandenbudenmayer

    Computer always wins?

    Go is actually way more complicated for a computer to win than Chess is, and current programs are no way near professional levels. A Go world champion will always win against a computer, for now.

  9. Jango
    Jobs Horns

    Webkit is forked from KHTML

    Webkit is a fork of KHTML - which is enitrely open source and free. Apple would have no choice but to open source webkit because of this.

    If Apple had built one from scratch, rest assured that it would be as closed and prorietary as it gets.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missed the point

    "One could be forgiven for thinking that short of being a major participant in the oil market, shunning open source in all its forms is the single most profitable economic activity on the planet."

    Or, alternatively, you could draw the conclusion that having a monopoly and making sure that your users/customers are legally or technically bound to keep using your products regardless of whether they are better than alternatives is the single most profitable economic activity on the planet and always has been. In fact, most consumer protection law that isn't about health and safety revolves around this simple and age-old fact. Which, of course, is in direct conflict with patent laws which grant a government-backed monopoly on ideas (thanks to function creep in the USPO, at least).

    Apple and MS are like any other company - they hate competition; it reduces profit. What makes them important in that respect is that they have a very large share of their markets. That's the real problem. The fact that Apple makes empty gestures to Open Source is a side-show.

  11. Trygve

    what point?

    "Apple and MS are like any other company - they hate competition; it reduces profit."

    Give that man a biscuit, you know an elementary fact of business.

    But since they essentially have no competition from Open Source, I fail to see the relevance of your comment. The worry for Apple and MS is all the free software Google are giving away as a loss-leader, not the teeming armies of the open-source movement.

    Open Source - nice in theory, in practice it's roadkill.

  12. bygjohn

    Or what about CUPS?

    Which I understand Apple originated and maintain, so it's not just ripped off and they are forced to make it OSS. As has been pointed out elsewhere in these comments: this is a non-story. Apple were notified that the software couldn't be hosted in the app store under its current rules/restrictions, so pulled it to comply with the licence. Big deal.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Readalong with Trygve

    "Open Source - nice in theory, in practice it's roadkill."

    Well, firstly Apple's current OS is heavily based on Open Source software so I don't really know why you keep whittering on about that.

    Secondly, since you seem too hard of reading to understand it, my actual point was that Apple's approach to everything they do is, from day one, to create lock-in. They even use weird cable connectors in their all-encompassing effort to make it hard for users to leave or for competitors to compete on quality or price. They go to great lengths, just like MS, to make a nice (shiny plastic) bubble around themselves inside which they can charge what they like for any old tat.

    Rather than being heralds of a new world of fantastic possibilities freed from the limitations of physical manufacture and distribution, Apple and MS continue to do everything in their power to limit computing to serving the same resource-poor economic models of the 18th-20th centuries. They are about as forward-thinking as Ford Motor Cars.

    If you want to keep crying about Open Source, why not get a blog so we call all ignore you in bulk?

  14. gregharewood

    Not quite true

    GPL as quoted doesn't say that the actual download contents have to be redistributable; just that a license is implied. "The Software" could just as easily refer to an unsigned link on the end of a hyperlink. If not Apple, then the contributor could have facilitated this.

  15. James O'Brien
    Jobs Horns


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

    Lemme repeat that with a few less words:

    "saying Apple doesn't value people's independence and creativity."

    "saying Apple doesn't value people's independence and creativity."

    "saying Apple doesn't value people's independence and creativity."

    I couldn't have said it better myself.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Au contraire mon ami

    Apple really does value people's independence that's why they're taking it away from them.

  17. sandman


    No commercial concern really wants you to be independent - ideally you should be locked in, preferably willingly. Apple are startlingly good at this and always have been. They have achieved this through a mixture of producing some pretty good products, top design skills and even better marketing.

    Since Apple are not a monopoly - other phones, computers, etc are available, there is nothing forcing anyone to buy their kit so they can be as closed as they like from a regulatory point of view. Y'all may not like it but their shareholders and the majority of their customers (based on no research, just guessing) seem to. Oh, you can be as creative as you like, only they'd rather you did it using their products and selling through them.

  18. Chad H.

    Well Duh.

    What exactly did the FSF think was going to happen here? Seems a bit like an own goal.

  19. vic 4

    Own Goal?

    > What exactly did the FSF think was going to happen here?

    I'm sure they knew exactly what would happen.

    > Seems a bit like an own goal.

    How, the software was removed so the infringement is gone, this is what they wanted.

  20. The First Dave

    @vic 4

    The software has been removed, so the world is a worse place for anyone who might have wanted to use the software. This was a trivial clause in the licence, and entirely the fault of the developer and/or the licence itself. Apple were not doing anything to prevent access to the actual source, they merely refused to spend a lot of money on Lawyers to write an additional clause into their terms and conditions to say that some of it did not apply to this one app, that was being given away for free and therefore not earning a penny for Apple.

    The silly thing is, if someone had cloned the app, entered it on the Apple store _without_ the GPL, then no-one would have batted an eyelid.

  21. Flybert

    another thing really

    Apple modified the source, adding code that limits the number of times the software can be copied and which kinds of computer device it can be used on

    Therefore the added source code, once distributed, becomes Open and released under GPL, does it not ?

    Would it not been more clever to sue for Apple's source code for the iTunes version of the software, and then distribute it to the OpenSource community ?

    Then could not the community make a *patch* to fix the 5 device (copy) limit and device type restrictions ?

  22. Chad H.

    its an own goal because

    This is going to work against the attractiveness of the GPL - In this case the Go Game developer isnt able to use the code to do what he wants to do because the FSF threw a hissy fit.

    The same arguments against Apple can now be made in a smaller form against the FSF - Use our code OUR way or else!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns


    ...what can I say, Steve sucks.

    Not sent from an iPhone.

  24. Neoc

    Differences in the current monopolies.

    Microsoft: "Where do you want to go today?"

    Apple: "You, come over here!"

    It sounds like a major difference, until you realise that both companies are trying to get you to use their software/hardware exclusively, via various means (undisclosed APIs, deep-linking software, breaking or not following standards, etc...)

    Of the two, I'd say Apple is more "honest" and in-your-face about it.

    No, I do not use Apple products and only use MS-branded products when I have to (although I do have a soft-spot for XPSP3, once I finish loading it with non-MS software)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    GNU Go. Rly?

    I can see how Apple's draconian, evil, restrictive, naughty & aggressive policies have stopped this game becoming the best -ever seller in the Apple store, nay, the best, most popular, most fun and most downloaded game OF ALL TIME.

    I'm crushed.

  26. zenp

    ..FSF go in too deep, group captured, whole game now in disarray, foolish FSF...

    ...agreed in full! Just distances me even further from the day i finally cave in a buy myself a bit of iTech. Though maybe a game as ancient and absorbing as Go will find a new platform on Apple devices...

  27. Quxy

    Just as anticipated by the FSF

    No surprise here. As FSF pointed out at the beginning,

    "In most ways, this is a typical enforcement action for the FSF: we want to resolve this situation as amicably as possible. We have not sued Apple, nor have we sent them any legal demand that they remove the programs from the App Store... The only thing we're doing differently is making this announcement. Apple has a proven track record of blocking or disappearing programs from the App Store without explanation. So we want to provide everyone with these details about the case before that happens, and prevent any wild speculation."

  28. bojennett

    I like the FSF, but sheesh

    I like how the FSF stands up for software freedom, but their action here seems more than a little silly and petty. Look, if the code is open sourced, then the port would have to follow the same license, right (GPL, Apache, etc.)? And the app is free, right? So, you can get it from the App Store, and you can get the code, modify it, and submit your own version, right? What, exactly, has been limited here and how, exactly, as Apple shown that they don't care about freedom or creativity? What was prevented?

    Many feel that Apple provides a convenience with their App Store. By picking this fight with Apple, the FSF has said "you must change your business model", which Apple very obviously wasn't going to do. All the FSF accomplished here was destroy the open source community's ability to develop really cool iPhone apps that "scratched an itch".

    Yes, they can do it for Android, and i suppose if that is wildly successful, Apple will change their policies, but really, FSF, was this ultimately a necessary thing for you to gripe about?

  29. Ben Tasker Silver badge


    Apple selling the App in a way that's incompatible with the license is alright, because the App Store is a convenience?


    The only thing that would make it worse is if you believed Apple would give you the same leeway if things were reversed.

    Let me put it this way - Who are Apple to decide whether or not someone elses code can be redistributed? It's the same principle as if they had decided to let everyone distribute something licensed as 'one copy', except that because it's reversed people think it's OK.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    ermmmm no

    Apple were unaware of the GPL license on the software, and when it was pointed out to them by the FSF, they stopped distributing it? The problem here is? If they had ignored the request and continued to distribute, the FSF could have sued, instead they stood by the GPLs terms, easy really...

    apple acted exactly as they should do. It was the developer who acted inappropriately by trying to distribute through a channel that was inappropriate despite Apple's terms being clear (whether you like them or not)

  31. Anonymous Coward

    GPL Infections

    Are bad for business.

    FSF are just plain annoying.

  32. vic 4

    How is GPL bad for buisness

    If your usage of the GPL software is not compatible with it don't use it, simple.

    If you mean it's bad for business because the licence prevents you from using it, tough that's live, what would you go if a licence for a proprietary piece of software prevent you from doing want you wanted? You have two options, approach the developers and negotiate a new licence or use/develop something else, and you can do both of those with GPL software.

  33. Spaller

    NetHack next?

    Hmm, hopefully nethack won't be next.

  34. Robert Hill
    Thumb Down

    Would everyone stop listening to Stallman...please?

    This is a guy who spent most of his life on the US government grant payroll, getting paid to hack in MIT's labs with taxpayer money. His attitude about software "freedom" makes perfect sense - if EVERYONE can be a hacker paid by taxpayer dollars.

    Most of us have to work for a living and make money Richard. Families to support, kid's braces, college educations to pay for, housing to provide. And we don't want to fund your belief that everything should be "free". I expect to PAY for my software (and do), and compensate the coders that actually sweated into the keyboard to create it. And when I have good ideas I expect to be PAID for them - and as a consultant I well do.

    This whole exercise is another episode of rms trying to scream "software wants to be free!". It's a grandstand activity, of no practical value except to try and posit Apple in a negative light by exploiting a conundrum in their legal language. I say conundrum because even if the downloader can only distribute to 5 devices, ANYONE can download a free app off AppStore themselves. Even conundrum gives it too much weight - it's more like a tempest in a teapot. All rms did was get a nice enough game removed from public iPhone distribution - yeah, because that's REALLY good for open software...duh!

  35. Ben Tasker Silver badge


    In expecting to be paid for your work, you expect the license/contract linked to it to be honoured yes?

    It's the same principle, the original author released it under the license of their choice. It's not for Apple to decide to change the terms, it's not their software.

    I'm not criticising Apple for removing the App, that's their perogative. It's the initial action that's the problem

  36. Anonymous Coward


    They can release it under the license of their choice, but not in the app store. Release it elsewhere for the android, why submit it to the App Store when you know it is going to break the GPL? Publicity? Or incompetence on the devs part?

  37. vic 4
    Thumb Down

    Good for open software

    > All rms did was get a nice enough game removed from public iPhone distribution - yeah, because that's REALLY good for open software...duh!

    And thereby enforced the license the software was developed and released under and making sure open software remains open. True, _Most_ people will be able to get this onto their device but not everyone. Also, if they let this slip they are setting a precedent, the next infringement may be slightly more sever, the next more so, at what point do you think they should step in?

    BTW, I have an old ipod for which the wifi networking is dead (but still used for checking my software works on old kit), connecting to itunes is the only way I can get stuff on it and as my 5 devices is accounted for I can only put things on that I build my self, true I could get the source and build it for myself, anyone else wanting to do that would have to pay Apple $90 for the privilege of the development tools and ability to added my built software to my device that I paid money for.

    The development tools BTW are based on GPL'd software, i.e. gcc

  38. Volker Hett

    jep, he should have taken the money and sold his software

    like any good company would do, get the taxes and then get more money from taxpayers to use what they have already paid for.

  39. James O'Shea Silver badge

    What's the problem?

    As I see it, the situation is:

    1 the GPL says that software released under it must be released in a certain way

    2 Apple says that software in the App Store must be released in a certain way

    3 Apple's way ain't the GPL way

    4 the EFF is insistent that the app in question be released the GPL way or not at all

    5 Apple says, fine, it's gone.

    The problem appears to have been solved.

    Oh. Wait. The EFF made a song and dance about their licensing _knowing_ that the probable result would be that the app gets booted. I see.

    If I were running the App Store I'd go through all other apps and ensure that any which use the GPL are booted. And I'd turn down any future GPL apps. Congratulations, boys, you just lost a showcase. Hope it was worth it.

  40. vic 4

    Lost nothing

    > you just lost a showcase

    No, they got the infringement addressed, which is want they fundamentally wanted. I'm sure it wouldn't take much for Apple to allow some applications to be free from DRM but they don't so I'm sure the FSF knew exactly what was going to happen.

  41. prathlev


    ""If I were running the App Store I'd go through all other apps and ensure that any which use the GPL are booted. And I'd turn down any future GPL apps.""

    That would be extremely prudent. It would even be illegal _not_ to do this. Unless Apple changes their license terms.

    Please understand: Distributing GPL applications via the App Store using the store's standard license terms is ILLEGAL.

  42. The First Dave


    No, it would not be illegal, there is nothing criminal about any of this.

    IANAL but it seems fairly clear to me that the person who posted this app to the App Store is the one who is most at fault - he is the official publisher, not Apple who are just the conduit.

  43. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Jobs Horns

    "restraint of trade"

    Here's hoping the FTC does something useful for once and Apple laywers start soiling their pants.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trade wherever you like

    Release it without the GPL or release it outside of the Apps store no restraint of trade here...

  45. Anonymous Coward

    creativity != programming

    Saying Apple doesn't value independence and creativity is plain stupid, but only to be expected from a group who's tunnel vision equates these basic human values with computer programming ... nerds ..

  46. Anonymous Coward

    And who lost?

    So folks with iPhones lost the ability to play a good, free open source game. And the farts at FSF think this is a good thing? Or were they truly so naive that they thought that Apple will make an exception in this case?

  47. j88per
    Dead Vulture

    el reg digs a deeper hole for itself

    Ok, I'm probably more than a little ignorant, but why do these articles always take the stance that it was Jobs who decreed that an app doesn't meet the app store's policies. He's the CEO, I would think and hope that he has slightly more critical responsibilities than deciding who to piss off by what apps are approved or dis-approved. I would think that could be delegated to a few underlings. And what about published policy? I know they've gone against their own policy a few times, its expected, but in this case? Probably not.

    My take on this article, follows the typical rant that once again the Reg has tried to create news where there isn't any. You're trying to start an anti-apple bandwagon by putting up article after article about how apple is evil. Yet lacking any real news, its just pure fail and makes you look stupid.

    I just don't see this as news - the GNU Go game was already licensed under the GPL2 license, that conflicted with apples app store license - GNUGo informed apple of this conflict, apple did what they were supposed to do, remove the conflict. GNUGo didn't say 'lets send this to apple and see if they revert their policy'.

    Its like copyright violation, if I find a photo I snap on the Register and you don't have permission, I have to inform you that you do not have appropriate permission. You then remove the offending photo or come to some term(s) of agreement.

    This is news like telling me that its sunny and 85 out, when I'm already outside. C'mon el reg, you used to be good! Don't get me wrong, the pro apple articles from Orlowski(?) make me just as sick.

    (A stupid yank from across the pond)

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    GNU Go was the only GPL{v2,v3} app in the apple app store? Really?

    They must realise this too, but if they don't, well. Let's all pick a GPLed app and poke apple with it. As soon as they fail to remove one, sue. As soon as they amend the terms, demand all the others they've removed be put back.

  49. Stephen Orr

    I find it amusing...

    I don't have any problems with Apple having their own rules for the App Store that clash with the GPL. It's their facility, they can run it however they want. It's more amusing that the FSF believe that their license should automatically override everyone else's terms and conditions regardless of whether those terms and conditions apply to every other piece of software or not!

  50. Ben Tasker Silver badge

    To be fair

    The license that the author released the code under should override Apples terms.

    You're correct, however, in saying that those terms should not have to extend to non GPL software


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