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Re: [Enigma-devel] Engima for the iPhone/iPod Touch

From: Alex Smith
Subject: Re: [Enigma-devel] Engima for the iPhone/iPod Touch
Date: Tue, 06 Oct 2009 22:25:06 +0100

On Tue, 2009-10-06 at 15:54 -0500, Geoffrey Gallaway wrote:
> Hey Alex, thanks for taking the time to write a great response to some  
> of my questions. I've responded to your points below. Please let me  
> know what you think.
> On Oct 6, 2009, at 3:04 PM, Alex Smith wrote:
> > iPhone is that I have heard (although do not know this for a fact)  
> > that
> > giving the source for applications violates Apple's terms; apparently
> > using Apple's SDK for the iPhone requires you to sign a non-disclosure
> > agreement that prevents you from giving the application's source  
> > out. As
> > a result, there'd be no way that anyone could simultaneously get a
> > licence from Apple to develop a version of Enigma for the iPhone, and
> > from the Enigma developers to port it to the iPhone; any course of
> > action would break one agreement or the other.
> >
> This is no longer true (although it was true when the linux.com  
> article referenced below was written). Apple dropped that requirement  
> in late 2008 IIRC. I've read and reread the contract and I can find no  
> mention of source code, source code licenses, Apple owning the source  
> code, Apple owning the binary, any rights to the application or  
> limiting distribution of the source code.

I don't have a copy of the contract in question, so I have no real way
to respond to this. If Apple are now willing to approve applications
that openly give out their source code, though, that's great news.

> There any many applications available on the app store that are open  
> source. They even state it in their product information copy. Take the  
> game Tyrian for example:
> APPLICATION DESCRIPTION: ".... This is a re-write of the original  
> Tyrian v2.1 game by Jason Emery, Daniel Cook... It is based on  
> OpenTyrian project's source code and licensed under the GNU GPL v2....  
> In accordance with GPL v2, the source code is available upon request."  
> Another example is the IRC client known as Colloquy. There is an  
> Colloquy mobile app on the app store which uses "Open minded and open  
> source, like it should be" as one of it's selling points. Here's the  
> source code: http://colloquy.info/project/browser/trunk and here is  
> the product information page with links the app store and the source  
> code: http://colloquy.mobi/

I find it rather interesting (and weird) that I can't find a description
of what the actual licence for Colloquy is anywhere on their website;
most open source licences require you to tell people you distribute the
code to which licence the resulting code is under. However, your other
examples seem pretty reasonable.

> Other example applications that are open source: Wordpress (a  
> Wordpress blog interface), Barcodes (a barcode reader) and others.
> I have an application pending approval right now that I've developed  
> and is licensed under GPL v2 and states in the product description the  
> URL to get the source code. That same URL is presented to the user  
> when they start the application on the iPhone or iPod touch.

This is probably good enough for all practical purposes; however, I
think that doing so Apple may end up violating your copyright on the
code (I assume you're the copyright holder for it, here). The GPL
version 2 offers three options if someone distributes source:
accompanying the binaries with the source code itself (not a link or an
offer), accompanying the binaries with a written offer to distribute the
source code to anyone (with a few restrictions), or (for noncommercial
distributions only) giving the person a copy of an offer you received to
distribute source. Whether a link to the source technically complies
with any of these three restrictions is an interesting point which would
probably take legions of lawyers to argue (and I have no idea which way
the argument would go); note that you yourself are safe doing this,
though, as it's impossible to violate your own licence on something
(licences grant extra rights to do something, and you already have the
rights in question so don't need a licence for them). (Apple likely
insist on licensing terms that allow them to distribute; so they could
claim they have their own, non-GPL, licence to do so.)

> > See <http://www.linux.com/archive/feature/131752> for a more in-depth
> > explanation of this.
> >
> > Another potential problem would be that as a typical (unmodified)  
> > iPhone
> > will only run code signed by Apple, it would be impossible to legally
> > distribute GPLv3 code onto the iPhone (section 6 of version 3 of the  
> > GPL
> > licenced under version 2 of the GPL or above; version 2 doesn't have
> > this protection; however, with a project with a licence like that,
> > there's always a risk that it will choose to move to version 3  
> > (which is
> > possible, apart from some GPLv2-only levels), leaving a possible  
> > iPhone
> > port in the lurch even if you did manage to develop it somehow
> I realize Enigma could switch to GPL v3, at which time I would have to  
> remove the Enigma port for the iPhone from the app store. But, as you  
> mentioned above ("there are a lot, and many of them are unlikely to  
> consent to a change of licence in any case") that seems unlikely.

I agree that it's relatively unlikely; the number of people who would
have to agree to relicensing would be much smaller than for licensing to
any licence but GPLv3 (most Enigma contributors used GPL 2-or-later
rather than explicitly 2), but the ones who insisted on version 2 only
probably had their own reasons for doing so, and would be unlikely to

> I believe one of the intents of the GPL is to make the source code  
> freely (as in beer) and easily available to anyone and make it easily  
> modifiable under the same license. Would I care if someone grabbed the  
> source to Enigma for the iPhone, added some features and put it up on  
> the app store under a different name? Nope. Would I care if they  
> charged for it? Nope, that's the way capitalism works! :)

The intent here is, I believe, to make it possible to change the program
in question; that's the main purpose that source code has when
programming, and fits in with the terms which the GPL uses. I'm not sure
if it makes a big legal difference, though. (Certainly, the reason the
restrictions discussed above were added to GPLv3 in the first place was
deliberately to stop GPL code being used in situations, like the iPhone
or (famously) the TiVo, where modifying the code in question was
impossible for the end-user due to required signing; whether these
changes were a good thing or not is a rather common flamewar subject
amongst open-source communities, much like the GPL vs. BSD-licence
debates, so it seems that different people have different ideas on
whether this sort of thing fits the spirit of the license or not.)

Alex Smith

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