More thoughts on FSF action against Apple over GNU Go

Last week, I blogged about the FSF action against Apple. This week, I intend to add a bit to that.

As it has been pointed out to me, Apple has immediately removed the GPL-infringing software from its app store. This of course means they have refrained from further infringing the GPL. It is not publicly known if they have made a declaration to cease and desist or not.

So yes, by removing the software that was distributed in violation of the GPL terms, Apple has done legally the right thing: Reduce the danger/risk of committing further (knowing) infringement.

The FSF (and probably the Free Software community in general) of course want something else: For Apple to alter their app store terms in a way that would enable software authors to have Apple distribute their GPL licensed software in it. While this might be possible very easily with small modifications to their legal terms and to the implementation of the app store, it is probably not quite easy to make a legal claim and try to force this upon Apple.

Anyone always has the choice to either distribute GPL licensed software compliant with its license terms - or not distribute it at all. If Apple prefers the latter, this is very unfortunate (and you might call it anti-social or even anti-competitive) but something that they can very well do.

The only questions that I see remaining from a legal point of view: What about the previous GPL infringements? What can (and/or has) Apple to do in return to the previous distribution of infringing software? This is where the legal pressure of the copyright holders leaves room for negotiation. Instead of monetary damages (which don't really resolve what the GPL aims to do), there could possibly be a solution where Apple has to provide the GPL license text and complete corresponding source code to the Go program through their app store. And while they're at it, they might just solve the distributing source code for copyleft style licensed software problem in a generic way. Or they might just decide that they're stupid and stubborn and not interested in solving any problems in the first place.