Many things have been written aboutApple pulling VLC from the iOS App Store. Some puts the blame on people who are religious about the GPL, but personally I agree more with the view that any GPL and LGPL software is intrinsically incompatible with the iOS and its App Store terms.
The GNU Public License was invented as a way to make sure that all users has the right to redistribute and modify the software they have. In the license preamble (version 2.0), you can read:
To protect your rights, we need to make restrictions that forbid anyone to deny you these rights or to ask you to surrender the rights. These restrictions translate to certain responsibilities for you if you distribute copies of the software, or if you modify it.
For example, if you distribute copies of such a program, whether gratis or for a fee, you must give the recipients all the rights that you have. You must make sure that they, too, receive or can get the source code. And you must show them these terms so they know their rights.
The problem introduced with the App Store is that only Apple can distribute an application that works. Even if you get the source code to modify the application, Apple charges $100 per year just to run the modified piece of software on your own device. This clearly violates the spirit of the GPL, which says you should be able to modify, use, and redistribute the modified version of the software you receive at no charge.
Given that Apple is the one copying the software when distributing it to users through the App Store, Apple is the one who should make sure it gives that right to users. The problem is of course that they don’t want to give users the right to run any software they haven’t approved (unless they pay the yearly fee for the developer or the enterprise program).
Now, many people say this is hurting users. That is true to a certain extent as this makes it impossible to publish GPL software software on iOS, unless that software can be relicensed (which is only possible when all contributors agree to do so). The end result is that iOS users are left with less software choice.
But that’s only less software choice on iOS, and only as long as the platform prevents users from exercising the basic rights the GPL is meant to protect. Less restrictive platforms are given an advantage here — they can use GPL software — and helping the less restrictive platform win fulfils the long term goals of the GPL: more freedom to modify and redistribute the software you have.
Finally, anything I’ve said here probably apply to the LGPL too. The LGPL is basically the GPL with the exception that you can put some closed code on top of it. Any one distributing LGPL software as part of an application has not only the obligation to offer the source code for the LGPL components, but also give the right to modify and use those components.
So if Apple distributes in the App Store something that falls under the terms of the GPL or LGPL, it has the obligation to give you the right to use, modify, and redistribute the software. The problem is that it doesn’t want to. The result is that Apple can’t distribute it.
At least that’s how I’m seeing thing. I’m not a layer and I’ll let lawyers debate about whether Apple’s actions actually violates the legal terms of the GPL (and not just its intent), but since Apple finally pulled VLC I think it’s likely that the terms are backing the intent correctly. I can only assume there will be more complains and more applications pulled now that a precedent has been set.