Are App Stores Liable for Open Source Software Compliance?
The use of open source software enables application developers to build better applications more efficiently and cost effectively. Yet, open source license compliance in the app store setting can be a bit puzzling.
About a year and a half ago, there was a stir when GNU Go was removed by Apple from its App Store. The game, licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2 (GPL v2), was available for download on the App Store. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) contacted Apple and the developer who submitted the game to the App Store regarding non-compliance with the GPL v2, noting that the developer failed to provide the source code and Apple was in violation of the license as well. The FSF also provided a public explanation of its stance on its blog. Apple unceremoniously pulled the game from the App Store, thus eliminating the question of non-compliance. The focus of the discussion centered around restrictive terms in the App Store terms of service that conflicted with the GPL v2, section 6 which prohibits any further restrictions on the rights granted by the GPL v2 to recipient of the software.
What fascinated me about this controversy was the lack of focus on the other key requirements of the license.