Apple Pulls VLC Player From App Store

The media software's open source license conflicted with Apple's policies, said one of its developers in requesting removal.

Alison Diana, Contributing Writer

January 10, 2011

3 Min Read

Top 10 Apple Stories Of 2010

Top 10 Apple Stories Of 2010

(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Top 10 Apple Stories Of 2010

At the request of one of the program's original developers, on Friday Apple removed a free iOS port of the free VLC Media Player from its App Store.

The concern revolved around the GNU General Public License (GPL) of VLC, an open source application, and the policies governing Apple's App Store. Apple does not allow users to freely distribute apps outside its online store, but applications released under the GNU GPL are required to remain freely distributable.

With VLC, users could play almost any format video file on an Apple device without first converting it. The tool handles formats such as DVDs, video CDs, audio CDs, Web streams, and TV cards, according to Rémi Denis-Courmont, one of the original developers.

"On January 7th, I was told by an Apple attorney that VLC media player had been removed from the App Store," said Denis-Courmont in blog on Planet VideoLAN, on Saturday. "Thus the incompatibility between the GNU General Public License and the App Store terms of use is resolved -- the hard way. This end should not have come to a surprise to anyone, given the precedents."

In another post on Sunday, Denis-Courmont defended himself against online rumors that he cared more about licensing details than rumors. Apple received the copyright notice more than two months before it pulled the application, he said, and could have continued carrying VLC.

"Apple had the power and plenty of time (2 months) to adjust and clarify the terms of the App Store. Indeed, said terms were modified several times since then," Denis-Courmont said. "Alternatively, Apple could even have continued to carry VLC implicitly distributed under the GPL by Applidium. This is effectively what I believe the situation was before the removal."

In October, Denis-Courmont complained to Apple that the company was contradicting the GPL's conditions by distributing VLC Media Player under its App Store terms.

"VLC Media Player is free software licensed solely under the terms of the... GNU General Public License. Those terms are contradicted by the products usage rules of the App Store through which Apple delivers applications to users of its mobile devices," he said at that time.

Apple uses digital rights management (DRM) and proprietary legal terms on programs available via the App Store, said the Free Software Foundation.

"The net result is that a perfectly good product, a free product wrapped in DRM that serves no practical use in this case, is no longer available to the masses," said TorrentFreaks' Enigmax. "And understandably the man in the street won't give a damn about the great philosophy of freedom behind the GNU license nor the evils of DRM. He will care only that VLC is not available anymore and he can't play his videos."

About the Author(s)

Alison Diana

Contributing Writer

Alison Diana is an experienced technology, business and broadband editor and reporter. She has covered topics from artificial intelligence and smart homes to satellites and fiber optic cable, diversity and bullying in the workplace to measuring ROI and customer experience. An avid reader, swimmer and Yankees fan, Alison lives on Florida's Space Coast with her husband, daughter and two spoiled cats. Follow her on Twitter @Alisoncdiana or connect on LinkedIn.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights