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Android vs. iPhone: The GPL Question

Well, now we know. You can’t sell software using the General Public License (GPL) on the Apple App Store& because it conflicts with its Terms of Service (ToS) . The popular VLC media player, was the first major GPLed software to be pulled from Apple’s App Store, it won’t be the last. But, what about Google’s Android Market? I asked the experts and they tell me that, in general, GPL developers can offer their wares on Android.

I asked Columbia Law School professor Eben Moglen and head of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) about whether GPLv3 programs, as well software like VLC, which is under the GPLv2, would be restricted from Apple’s App Store, and he replied, “Yes. The problem isn’t in the license terms. The problem is that the Apple App Store ToS for people wanting to distribute through it require that each app sold (even at price zero) must be licensed for use on a single device only. Permissively-licensed FOSS can be transacted for in the App Store, because its license can be replaced by single- device-only terms. Copylefted software can’t be un-freely relicensed, so it can’t be transacted for there under Apple’s current ToS.”


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