Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) imposed by Apple on its App Store make the iconic VLC Media Player an outlaw there. Legal contradictions (DRM vs GPL) deprive Apple users of one of the best video players.
The decision to remove VLC Media Player from the App Store came as a result of conflicting provisions in the DRM license Apple uses and the terms of the General Public License (GPL), the license under which VLC is distributed. To put it simply, the fact that VLC is open source and is distributed under a GPL license cut its way to Apple users.
So, GPL Is an Outlaw?
Hmm, yes, it is -- but only on App Store. At least its GPL nature is the official reason to cut VLC. Or as Eben Mogel, from the Software Freedom Law Center, puts it:
Apple would remove VLC simply because it cannot stand software distributed under the GPL on its stores.”
Apple is free to follow whatever policies they deem fit but if they cared about their users, they could have more open rules. End users don't care about the legal formulations and many of them might have not even heard about either open source and its licenses, or DRM and its fierce restrictions.
What users want is to have the applications they need and love, especially when these applications are free. VLC is a remarkable application because, unlike many its counterparts, it can play almost any type of video file and it comes with many rare codecs you can't obtain without great difficulty elsewhere.
How Did We Get Here?
Depending on whom you ask, you might get different answers. Probably the person who knows most about the drama, because he has been personally involved in it, is Rémi Denis-Courmont, one of the original VLC developers. He filed the lawsuit against pulling VLC from App Store, but given the legal facts, he actually had no other option.
The explanation by Rémi Denis-Courmont at the site of VLC details the events that led to here. Basically, VLC had two choices -- to stay open source or to stay on App Store. Given the fact that it has always been an open source application, it was a no-brainer which road to follow.
Still there are voices who accuse VLC creators of acting against the interests of its users. But the decision doesn't mean that they don't value their users -- it means that they won't go against their principles (i.e. the open source spirit) and violate the provisions of GPL in order to please a commercial company, be it Apple or whatever. Unfortunately, the big losers in this dispute are Apple end users, who are now deprived of a really valuable application.