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VLC app removed from App Store

Not long after a version of multi-format video player VLC hit the App Store, speculation swirled surrounding its possible removal because of licensing issues. A few months later, it appears that everyone's fears were true: VLC has been removed from the App Store.

Before anyone grabs a pitchfork and/or torch and starts marching toward Cupertino, it's worth noting that VLC's removal from the App Store has nothing to do with Apple's preferences. Rather, it's a direct result of one man's misguided crusade... a man who, (perhaps) coincidentally, is an employee of Nokia, one of Apple's competitors in the mobile space.

Rémi Denis-Courmont [who is a lead contributor to the VLC project, and therefore had the grounds to pursue a licensing claim based on his included and GPL'ed code within the VLC iOS app –Ed.] waged a one-man campaign against Applidium's iOS port of VLC, claiming the app violated the GNU public license (GPL) because App Store purchases have Digital Rights Management (DRM) applied to them. The end result seems somewhat counterproductive, because now unless you downloaded VLC before it was pulled from the App Store, you can't install it on your iOS device at all. So much for ensuring that VLC can be freely distributed.

It's also important to note that VideoLAN, the group that's responsible for the desktop version of VLC, had nothing to do with getting Applidium's VLC port removed from the App Store; as an organization, VideoLAN itself did not pursue removal of the VLC app from the App Store. As berserk as it sounds, it really has been all about one guy's beef with the App Store's rules. One guy with a vested interest in seeing Apple lose to his employer, Nokia. [Note that for many open source projects, the distinction between a single developer and 'the project' is not always clear and the hierarchy (or lack thereof) may be somewhat ad-hoc; we don't know the internal politics or leadership structure of the VideoLAN project nor Denis-Courmont's administrative role. –Ed.]

If that wasn't enough, Courmont's response to Apple pulling the VLC app from the App Store comes off as incredibly spiteful:

"At last, Apple has removed VLC media player from its application store. Thus the incompatibility between the GNU General Public License and the AppStore terms of use is resolved - the hard way. This end should not have come to a surprise to anyone, given the precedents."

That's awesome, Rémi. I'm sure your high-minded principles are far more important than the benefit that millions of people could have had from using the FREE VLC app on their iOS devices. I'm glad I managed to download the app before your antics resulted in it getting pulled from the App Store, but thanks for ruining it for everyone else.

[Several commenters have pointed to contact information for Courmont or posted it directly. Please do not do this. Such comments will be deleted and repeat offenders will be banned from TUAW. –Ed.]