Apple and GPL Code

Discussion in 'macOS' started by GilGrissom, Aug 28, 2006.

  1. GilGrissom macrumors 65816


    Mar 13, 2005
    Could those wise people out there help me with some things to do with Apple and GPL licenses in OS X?

    Apple have used GPL code in Mac OS X, right? by my understanding under the GPL license you can take the code and change it but you have to release it back to the source. If the source regects it then you can use it to do what you want but must keep it under GPL license.

    What Apple are doing is re-releasing it under their own open source license, right? It is not completely free (as in freedom here) as it was before. They are making it available but with more restrictions. It has lost the GPL license and the good will of the open source community.

    Not all open source stuff is free (money free) but is still free (freedom free) where people still have full access to it and don't start stealing code from GPL licenses and claiming it as their own without giving it back to the source or anything.

    By stealing code (such as Spaces and Time Machine, which have apparently been around under GPL for years) are Apple breaking the law and could they be sued in a court if people actually took the time and money to sue them?

    This is the view that a good friend of mine has, a Mac user himself, but who has become very disgruntled by Apple by their abuse of the GPL license. I'm unsure of the whole situation and don't totally understand it.

    Could anyone help me understand this and fill me in on all the details?

    Any background knowledge and correct knowledge would be greatfully received!

  2. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    Apple have released all the GPL code they use. Spaces does not use any GPL code: Apple have written it all themselves. Whilst various X Window managers have had similar features for years it doe not mean that Apple used this code, or that they have to release their own, totally different, code under the GPL.

    To summarise: Apple have not broken the law or the GPL and they are not about to be sued.
  3. mduser63 macrumors 68040


    Nov 9, 2004
    Salt Lake City, UT
    What makes you think Spaces and Time Machine are GPL'ed? Certainly virtual desktops have been around in both closed-source and open-source forms for a long time, but that doesn't mean the idea itself must necessarily be subject to a GPL license. Same kind of deal with Time Machine.

    Tell your friend he's wrong.
  4. PatrickF macrumors 6502

    Feb 16, 2006
    Apple did release the source for khtml back to the original developers. As for the kernel itself, that is licenced under the BSD licence, which allows them to redistribute without giving any modifications back.

    As for things like Apache, Apple simply use the software so I don't think there's any GPL infringements there.
  5. GilGrissom thread starter macrumors 65816


    Mar 13, 2005
    Ah good good. I was thinking this, but he put up a good arguement and I wanted to seek other sources as I wasn't sure on the whole thing.
    I didn't think it was, just needed the other side of the arguement!

    Thanks for your help. He still isn't totally convinced that Apple haven't broken GPL code but I'm getting there. He says he knows the guy who wrote the GPL license has been babbling about it and how he is trying to stop Apple doing it one way or another (my friend is a HUGE open source advocate so would easily listen to the guy, I forget his name). Apparently a newer version of the GPL is coming out soon anyway, apparently to help stop companies abusing it (which my friend seems to think Apple are).

    I knew about the BSD license and managed to stall him slightly on that point, but with it only involving the Kernel he soon moved back to his GPL point.

    Thank you all for your replies, it's given me more understanding.

    Any other questions I have I'll post back as our "discussion" continues!

    Any other information you have on the matter would be greatly appreciated too!
  6. Catfish_Man macrumors 68030


    Sep 13, 2001
    Portland, OR
    Early in the WebKit project they stayed *just* on the legal side of the GPL. They released the source, but not in a very useful way. This made a lot of open source people annoyed at Apple, and many of them haven't realised that the situation has changed since then. These days WebKit is much more open and collaborates with a number of other open source projects.

    A lot of GPL advocates really hate the BSD license though; they can't get over the fact that BSD coders are just giving their code away to anyone that wants to use it, even closed source commercial applications. Also, the exact definition of a "derivative work" (very important term in the GPL) is unclear and has never been legally specified. Your friend's initial misconception that all backup systems and virtual desktop systems were covered by the GPL is an extreme example of what this lack of definition can lead to.
  7. PatrickF macrumors 6502

    Feb 16, 2006
    Sounds like your friend needs to get a life. Most things on OS X are not GPL licenced anyway, and the things that are they are simply packaging (which is exactly what all those Linux distros do!)

    Stuff like built-in shell commands like cp, ls, awk, sed, etc. are all BSD versions of what you would normally see on Linux. The versions of Linux are usually GNU clones, which are licenced under the GPL.

    Yes, Apple were a little shifty with WebKit (which they derived from khtml) but they stayed legal on that I believe and they have changed and made it easier for the khtml guys to integrate Apple's changes.

    Earlier I mentioned they were just packaging Apache with reference to the GPL before remembering that Apache software isn't even released under the GPL - they use their own licence.

    I think it's time for your friend to start demonstrating exactly where Apple are violating the GPL.
  8. GilGrissom thread starter macrumors 65816


    Mar 13, 2005
    Exactly! Me too! He's coming around, but I couldn't fight him totally on it as I didn't have all the facts myself.

    Thanks for all the info guys! My understanding is increasing with every post! It's really interesting stuff anyway, even if you forget the arguement with my friend!

    Any other info as always is greatly welcomed! :)

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