It seems as if only yesterday that we were talking about the arrival of the open-source VLC Media Player on Apple’s App Store. Well, those days are now beyond us, for Apple has pulled the application in the face of a lawsuit from one of VLC’s original developers, Rémi Denis-Courmont.
The move is a bust for consumers looking to benefit from the program’s, “support for nearly all codec there is,” read the app’s once-available description. The easy-to-use, multimedia-playing application is normally completely free for download for any conventional PC user. However, the app itself is open-source, protected by the formalities of the GNU General Public License (GPL) under which it’s offered.
While that might not mean anything for a conventional end-user, it’s the very crux of the reason why you’ll no longer find VLC on the App Store.
“The GPL gives Apple permission to distribute this software through the App Store. All they would have to do is follow the license’s conditions to help keep the software free,” wrote the Free Software Federation’s Brett Smith earlier this year. “Instead, Apple has decided that they prefer to impose Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) and proprietary legal terms on all programs in the App Store.”
Since Apple’s DRM practices fly against the permissions allowed within the language of the GPL, Denis-Courmont had no choice but to file suit against Apple for alleged copyright infringement of the VLC software. He announced the formal notice on October 26—Apple subsequently removed the VLC player from its App Store on January 7, 2011.
While the move can be seen as a sort-of celebration for the open-source movement, in that their ability to propagate software bound by whatever licenses they set remains unhampered, it’s nevertheless rubbing some enthusiasts the wrong way. To them, the point of open-source software is not necessarily the legalese found within the accompanying licenses, rather, to release software that ultimately benefits the end-user. It’s philosophy versus practicality.