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Alt media player VLC cut from Apple App Store

Popular cross-platform media player gets yanked from the App Store--at the request of the software's original developer.

Popular media player VLC has been pulled from Apple's App Store at the request of one of the program's original developers--in a move that's caused some hard feelings in the world of open-source software.

The situation involves a conflict between the General Public License, which governs VLC and many other open-source programs, and App Store policies.

"On January 7th, Apple removed VLC media player from its application store for iDevices," Remi Denis-Courmont, one of the developers of the desktop version of VLC, wrote in a blog post picked up by the Web site of the nonprofit group behind the original software. "Thus the incompatibility between the GNU General Public License and the App Store terms of use is resolved--the hard way. This end should not have come as a surprise to anyone, given the precedents."

Denis-Courmont himself was the one who sent Apple a notification of copyright infringement involving distribution of VLC for Apple's iOS operating system, i.e., for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The GPL lets people freely copy, distribute, and modify GPL programs provided the resulting programs are also covered by the GPL and this same provision. But digital rights management applied to programs in the App Store prevents sharing.

Denis-Courmont and others see that clash as a threat to the heart of the GPL, but Romain Goyet, co-founder of the company that created the iOS version of VLC, disagrees.

"The way I see it, we're not violating anyone's freedom," Romain Goyet told Ars Technica. "We worked for free, opened all our source code, and the app is available for free for anyone to download. People are enjoying a nice free and open-source video player on the App Store, and some people are trying to ruin it in the name of 'freedom.'"

VLC for the Mac, which, unlike Apple's QuickTime, plays almost all common media files, was the second most popular Mac-software download during 2010 on CNET's And VLC for the iPad and for the iPhone captured the notice of CNET's Rick Broida because they let users play virtually all video formats, with no conversion required, leading Broida to label VLC a "must-have" app.

For more on the VLC app getting yanked, check out "No GPL Apps for Apple's App Store" at CNET sister site ZDNet. And if you happen to be a developer of App Store apps, you might want to take a look at ZDNet's "How to avoid modern day public GPL floggings, part deux."