Vicious Nokia Employee Gets VLC Removed from Apple App Store

Saturday, January 8, 2011
By OP Editor

Nokia employee and VLC developer Rémi Denis-Courmont goes against mission of VideoLan, gets Apple to remove VLC for iOS from App Store using licensing technicality.

VLC iPad video player RIP

VLC Developer vs. App Store

Few months ago, VLC, the free video player from VideoLAN was released to the App Store. VLC for iPad, and later versions for iPhone and iPod touch, was ported to iOS by Applidium for free, and released for FREE. However, contributing developer and Nokia employee Rémi Denis-Courmont didn’t like it.

Remi argued that open-source GNU General Public License that is tied to VLC conflicts with the terms detailed in Apple’s own App Store licensing, and tried to remove the iOS VLC app based on copyright and licensing claims.

The issue is that Apple iOS Apps contain a standard DRM for security signing purposes. Remi ignores the fact that despite the DRM (there for security purposes), anyone with compatible iOS devices can use the VLC App. Apple also distributes the VLC app for free. Thus, Apple isn’t restricting distribution with the DRM. Not at all.

VideoLAN Mission

Note the VideoLAN mission: “VideoLAN is a project and a non-profit organization, composed of volunteers, developing and promoting free multimedia solutions.”

VideoLAN VLC mission

Apple Removes VLC From App Store on January 7, 2011

The Nokia employee did not attempt to achieve an amicable solution, instead he went straight to getting VLC removed from the Apple App Store. 2 months later, on January 7, Apple finally removed VLC for iOS.

“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. I am not going to pity the owners of iDevices, and not even the MobileVLC developers who doubtless wasted a lot of their time. This end should not have come to a surprise to anyone.” Rémi Denis-Courmont wrote on VideoLAN.

(Note, even though Remi’s personal post is mirrored on VideoLan web site, it is NOT be VideoLAN’s official stance on the topic.)

Apple removed VLC media player from App Store

How vicious.

How is removing a FREE app conductive to VideoLAN’s mission of “promoting free multimedia solutions”? Oh that’s right, Rémi Denis-Courmont works for Nokia, a direct competitor of Apple. Rémi’s personal stake in Nokia probably dived since Apple introduced the iPhone.

Nokia’s Lost Market Values

Let us estimate Remi’s Nokia losses.

In 2007, the year Apple introduced the iPhone, Nokia stock prices were up to all time high of almost $40 per share. But the prospects of maker of the low-end phones has dived since then. Recently, stock price of Nokia is down to a low of $8 per share, a 80% loss of value.

We wonder how many shares of Nokia does Remi own? Or perhaps it’s his Nokia boss sending the order?

Responses to Nokia Employee Rémi Denis-Courmont

“The way I see it, we’re not violating anyone’s freedom. We worked for free, opened all our source code, and the app is available for free for anyone to download,” Applidium cofounder Romain Goyet told Arstechnica in November 2010. “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.’”

OP thinks Apple should just give the Nokia employee the finger and say p1ss off, in the spirit of Steve Jobs’ enthusiasm toward the big blue IBM:

Steve Jobs flips IBM middle finger

Do you think Steve is getting too mellow? The Apple CEO should have sent someone to Rémi Denis-Courmont, and deliver this message: “Boom! See this middle finger? We are not removing VLC from the App Store. Bring it on.”

Update: Download VLC for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch

VLC is now released on Cydia, for jailbroken iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Sorry Remi / Nokia.

To Play AVI and various types of videos on iOS devices without jailbreaking, download CineXPlayer for iPad [App Store, $2.99] or CineXPlayer for iPhone & iPod touch [App Store, $1.99]


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Tags: Analysis, Apple, Fail, iPad Apps, iPhone Apps

19 Responses to “Vicious Nokia Employee Gets VLC Removed from Apple App Store”

  1. Bob

    Uh, you say it got pulled on a “licence technicality”.

    Or to put it a better way: “breaking the law”.

  2. It is a crystal clear violation of the GNU GPL to add DRM to the VLC app and to add the App Store’s licencing conditions on top of the GNU GPL, so it is irrelevant whether Rémi Denis-Courmont is vicious or not and what market share Nokia has. The GNU GPL is a licence like any other, and if you don’t want to agree to its terms, you can’t distribute GPL-licenced software. Sure, Jobs could “just give the Nokia employee the finger”, but then he would have to go to war against the entire GNU GPL community, and, like others who have tried, he would lose. Boom.

    • VideoLAN association president Jean-Baptiste Kempf notes on GPLv2:

      “Well, I believe this part is more tricky and the lawyer-language is made to f**k normal people understanding.

      (i), (ii) and (v) are not restricting anything on VLC on iOS usage
      (iii) and (iv) are subject to interpretation, and I still have a hard time on these part.

      Both (iii) and (iv) seem to grant rights, “shall be able to” and not restrict “DO NOT ALLOW” (as used in the rest of the App Store document.

      It also seems one can create as many iTunes account as he wants. Moreover, I have a hard time understanding if the GPLv2 forbids adding extra restrictions on usage or not.

      Translation: Apple is not restricting anyone from downloading VLC on iOS, because anyone can make as many iTunes account as he or she wants.

      “Also, it should be noted that the VLC on iOS source code and binaries are on the website, and anyone can modify and recompile VLC for iOS at any time, and redistribute it, through the mean he wants. And that are the important rights of GPLv2.”

      The VideoLAN association president believes GLPv2 rights are valid, because anyone can modify and recompile VLC for iOS at any time.

      Whole email to the list:

  3. Gnok

    Sigh. When will people understand that this isn’t a ‘Vicious Nokia employee’, but a core developer of VLC and VideoLAN? The App Store’s policies are incompatible with the GPL. Period. Here’s why:

    The GPL explicitly states ‘Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions.’

    The App Store license explicitly prohibits re-distribution of apps once downloaded.

    Right here, the App store’s policy becomes inherently incompatible with the GPL. All Rémi did was enforce his licence on software he’s co-authored — He is a core developer!

    • Sigh. When will people understand that he works for Nokia (aka Nokia pays his bills), a slow moving, failing competitor to Apple?

    • Ari

      Apple made changes to the appstore development agreement which allowed other GPLV2 apps to reappear on the appstore but Remi has a different interpretation of GPLV2 apparently than other developers. Just because Remi claims to have a different interpretation, it does not mean that the appstore is incompatible any more than providing binary software as a password protected ZIP. Packaging in not mentioned in GPLV2, in fact, binary format is not stipulated at all because the binary format and or packaging format varies with each platform and/or distro. The GPL V2 covers the responsibility for sharing the source if you share a binary with others in whatever form.

      Perhaps Remi is confusing GPLV3 with GPLV2.

  4. greenlight

    Gotta love seeing closed platform users act all entitled to open source software. You have no right to use VLC, and now it has been taken away from you. Deal with it, and go back to buying DRMed TV shows from iTunes, because that’s all that you deserve.

    • dennis

      Nice of you to come down off your high throne for a bit to tell all the iOS users that just because they didn’t make the same choices for their computer usage as you did that they can basically go screw off.

      Here is a newsflash — not everyone thinks the same way you do, which means not everyone will choose the same things you do. Ironically, they are exercising their freedom of choice, something that the GPL was intended to preserve.

      No where in the GPL does it limit running GPL software on open source platforms. No where. The GPL gives the user the right to run it on any platform they want. The GPL gives the user the right to redistribute it. The GPL gives the user the right to use it however they want.

      But apparently your definition of the GPL is quite different from the way it was intended. You instead seem to feel that the GPL is a way to hold leverage over users because they don’t agree with your own personal choices. You want to use the GPL as a way to feel as if you are actually better than those users because you’ve chosen to use a completely open sourced platform.

      It’s this kind of attitude that keeps people from switching to Linux as their primary OS. No matter how good it gets on the technical side, people will still remember the jerk who said to basically go away, you aren’t good enough to use this software.

      As an aside — I have used Linux over the past 16 years, both at home and professionally. I have also been a Mac users for the same period and an iOS user for the past three years. There is room for more than one methodology for obtaining software. It is not an all or nothing kind of deal.

    • greenlight

      dennis: I use plenty of closed platforms and I do make money off of closed-source software. There’s a place in the world for that, and it creates some amazing products and advancements.

      But I don’t expect the open source software to always be available to me there, I don’t expect to be able to leech off of the time and hard work donated by developers to the GPL software commons. The point of the GPL was to create a viral open software license so that one day we can have an entire ecosystem of software where the user has the freedom to modify it in any way they wish. The point was NOT to help increase the value of a closed, DRMed platform that _doesn’t even let you install your own software on your own device_ without paying $100/year. This isn’t a secret – the GPL has been very political from the start. It was created by Richard Stallman, the man behind the free software song.

      As a user of a closed platform, you should expect to have to use closed solutions – I understand this when I buy an iPad, and so should anyone else. If you want to be able to stand on the shoulders of software giants, you have to invest in a platform that supports that.

      As Remi said, “This end should not have come to a surprise to anyone”.

    • 123

      And yet Stallman is unsatisfied with GPL, apparently, because it limits freedom – the core value of free and open source software.

    • @greenlight,

      That is just FUD. Just what SUCCESSFUL mobile platform does not have a fee for developer program? What SUCCESSFUL electronic software store does not contain DRM?

      The VideoLAN President does not support Remi’s absurd interpretation. As pointed out in comment 2.1, VideoLAN official does NOT find iOS VLC violates GPL.

      Guess what, Remi works for Nokia, a closed platform. The only difference is that Nokia pays his bills. By the way, Apple iTunes music has no DRM in April 2009, but Nokia music did not remove DRM until Sept 7, 2010.

  5. David Crookes

    “VideoLAN President does not support Remi’s absurd interpretation. As pointed out in comment 2.1, VideoLAN official does NOT find iOS VLC violates GPL.”

    Yes, but that VideoLAN official isn’t the ultimate copyright/license holder. His view probably didn’t satisfy lawyers on the other sides.

    This is why some GPL projects won’t take contributions without copyright assignment to the project, so they can re-distribute the GPL code under another different license.

    Whether Remi’s interpretation is absurd or not is not the point. It’s Apple legal’s interpretation that counts.

  6. David Crookes

    I don’t think that is his motivation. I would expect he is happy with that since within cydia the user of the application now does have the freedoms required by the GPL, which they didn’t have under the App store.

    The freedoms that the GPL guarantees is not about compensation for use nor freedom to use but about freedom to modify and redistribute and at the same time require such freedoms remain within derivative works.

    • From his blog posting it’s clear he doesn’t like Apple.

      The most logical explanation is due to iPhone taking over top smartphone customers, resulting in huge decline in his Nokia stocks.

  7. David Crookes

    But him not liking Apple can also allow my explanation to be logical. So how is your explanation “most logical”

    I’d be surprised if he’s got a lot of stock such that he’d act like this, with little influence over Apple vs Nokia at the margin (do average people buying iPhone vs a Nokia N8 really think about VLC?).

    Apple/Google started trouncing Nokia well before VLC turned up in App Stores. Nokia started losing it’s strategic position in the smartphone war in 2007-8 onwards, when they never positioned themselves to sort their aged S60 line in contrast to coming competition.

    I’d expect that his position is ideological, not financial/commercial. If he was interested in the latter, he’d not work on GPL’ed software.

  8. José

    Hey, OP Editor,

    Should´t you be impartial????
    Looks like you´re too much on Apple Side!!!!


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