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iPhone SDK Trumps GPL: No Open Source Software
Tuesday, April 15th, 2008 at 4:00 PM - by John Martellaro
The developer who signs the Registered iPhone Developer Agreement agrees to the conditions under which one can create iPhone native applications. The agreement conflicts with and overrides the GNU General Public License (GPL), according to Linux.com on Tuesday.
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) published GPLv3 on the same day that Apple launched the iPhone, and since then developers has wondered about the restrictions placed on developers by Apples agreement.
Nathan Willis didnt hear from Apple, but was able to interview FSF Licensing Compliance Officer Brett Smith who went into the licensing issues in depth and described the limitations under which the Apple developer is placed.
While one can decline to charge for iPhone applications developed within the Apple program, several issues prevent the source code from falling under the GPL. The first is that all iPhone apps will be signed with a cryptographic key. "This condition conflicts with section 6 of the GPLv3, the so-called anti-TiVoization provision. In particular, it prohibits Apple from distributing a GPLv3-licensed iPhone application without supplying the signing keys necessary to make modified versions of the application run, too," Mr. Willis noted.
A second problem is that the NDA an Apple developer signs trumps the developers right to place a license of their choice on the software. "If you agree to an NDA that prohibits you from sharing your programs source, then you cannot release that program under the GPL, or incorporate any GPL-covered code in it," Mr. Smith said.
This is not to say that many in the Apple developer community arent talking and dont understand the limitations placed on them. However, for those who want to get a good understanding of the situation, with open eyes, the analysis by Mr. Willis is an excellent place to start.
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