OSS License Compliance – Source Code Not Enough

This post was first published on 17th January 2011.

Open Source Software adoption has taken a large stride in 2010. and so did enforcement of OSS licenses. Software Freedom Law Center has been taking the lead by filing suits against GPL violations. Despite the increasing number of OSS suits, none has till date gone the full distance. The cases are generally settled through compliance, withdrawal and/or payment of compensation.The recent withdrawal of an Open Source Software after alleged violation of GNU General Public License (GPL) by Apple elucidates that making source code available is not sufficient for OSS License compliance. The VLC application for IOS (IPhone Operating System) has been removed from its AppStore by Apple after receiving a complaint from the software developer, Rémi Denis Courmont. It was alleged by Rémi that incorporation of Digital Rights Management System for VLC software, whose original version is governed by GPL Version 2 amounts to license violation. In response, Apple removed the software from its applications.
By withdrawing, Apple chose to follow a common terms policy for all its software. Though the option of making the software available under different terms without DRM was there, Apple chose to not take that path. The reasons for the same are not known as Apple has not made any statement on the same.
Despite the reasons, OSS users must note and bear in mind that OSS License compliance involves much more than source code distribution. License terms relating to attribution, publicity, digital rights management, hardware restrictions and so on are also important. Unlike earlier, it must noted that OSS developers are today very keen on enforcing all provisions of a license.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
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