[vlc-devel] FSF position on GPLv2 & current App Store terms

Brett Smith brett at fsf.org
Fri Nov 5 17:24:10 CET 2010

On Wed, 2010-11-03 at 00:01 +0100, Jean-Baptiste Kempf wrote:
> >  distribute it beyond "five iTunes-authorized devices," or
> > modify the software in any way.
> I disagree on that part.
> > And remember: the paragraph I quoted
> > earlier makes clear that Apple *only* allows you to do the activities in
> > the list of Usage Rules.
> NO. The terms does not say "do the activities", but "use of Products", so
> distributing and modification are out of scope.
> And they are in Usage Rules.

You're making distinctions between words that we make a lot in the free
software community, and in our licenses.  Those distinctions are
important and I understand them.  But I'm convinced that Apple is using
the word "use" in a much broader sense than we normally do, such that it
covers anything you might do with the software -- whether that's run,
distribute, or modify it.

There are a couple of reasons for this.  One, this broad meaning of
"use" seems to be relatively common in proprietary software licenses,
and Apple's T&C are a lot closer to those sorts of agreements than free
software licenses.  Two, the Usage Rules mirror the restrictions that
are imposed by Apple's technical DRM measures -- and a primary goal of
those measures is to prevent people from distributing or modifying the
software.  I think it's only prudent to expect that Apple intended for
the Usage Rules to share that goal.

> > ## III. The GPL Prohibits These Restrictions ##
> > 
> > Section 6 of GPLv2 says:
> > 
> >         Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the
> >         Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from
> >         the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program
> >         subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any
> >         further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights
> >         granted herein.
> Ok, now, I don't understand.
> Do those "rights" include running (use) of the product or not?

Yes.  Section 0 expressly confirms that running the program is
unrestricted.  Attempting to restrict that right through other legal
means violates section 6.

> > Some people have argued that, because section 0 says "Activities other
> > than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this
> > License; they are outside its scope," Apple is not prohibited from
> > imposing restrictions on the software's use.  This is not true, and is
> > based on a misunderstanding of how activities "outside its scope" relate
> > to section 6.  The license places *no* conditions on activities "outside
> > its scope."  In fact, the very next sentence in section 0 confirms this;
> > it says: "The act of running the Program is not restricted...."  Thus,
> > section 6 is properly understood to mean that no external conditions can
> > be placed on those activities, either.
> I don't understand what you are trying to prove, here, can you explain?

It's related to the point I just made above: restricting use is a
violation of section 6.  The fact that section 0 says "Activities other
than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this
License; they are outside its scope" does not change this.  That
sentence indicates that running the program is completely unrestricted;
not that you're allowed to restrict it, as some have suggested.

I'm going to be out of the office for the next several days, so I regret
that I won't be able to respond promptly to any additional questions you
have -- but I will still answer them as soon as I get the opportunity.

Best regards,

Brett Smith
License Compliance Engineer, Free Software Foundation

Support the FSF by becoming an Associate Member: http://fsf.org/jf

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