To my understanding, a distributor of GPLv3 software who

  • does not have any right to redistribute software except by becoming a GPLv3 licensee, and
  • knowingly distributes GPLv3 software

agrees to Section 3 of the GPLv3 which states:

When you convey a covered work, you waive any legal power to forbid circumvention of technological measures to the extent such circumvention is effected by exercising rights under this License with respect to the covered work, and you disclaim any intention to limit operation or modification of the work as a means of enforcing, against the work's users, your or third parties' legal rights to forbid circumvention of technological measures.

Assuming the the redistributor is aware that they are redistributing GPLv3 software,

  1. Does this imply that a recipient of GPLv3 software is legally allowed to circumvent technological measures placed by the redistributor to the extent that it interferes with the user's rights granted by the license?

  2. If so, assuming that Apple is aware that it is distributing GPLv3 software, would this imply that users of Apple iOS devices who received GPLv3 software from the Apple App Store are legally allowed to circumvent technological measures by Apple (to the extent necessary for them to exercise their rights)?

This is a follow up question for another question about the iOS App Store and the GPL.

  • 1
    I am not sure that your first bullet (Apple can only distribute GPL software by being a GPL licensee) actually holds. That would mean that Apple also needs to have a copyright license for each closed-source app in their store, and I have not seen anything that suggests to me that Apple requests such a license from app developers. Mar 31, 2020 at 14:36
  • @BartvanIngenSchenau Exactly. This is why this question really has nothing to do with GPL (in reality) and is not even related to open source. It could apply to any license. To be sure, you can complain about many things that Apple and the app store does, but these are not Open Source issues at all.
    – Brandin
    Apr 1, 2020 at 7:05
  • 2
    @BartvanIngenSchenau Most companies that redistribute copyright material for third parties do in fact acquire a redistribution license from users when users agree to companies' TOSes. See github and youtube. I expect it is the same for apple. Please see my edit for more information. Apr 1, 2020 at 7:10
  • 4
    @TendersMcChiken, the largest number of companies that redistribute copyrighted material (bookstores, newspaper kiosks, etc.) do not have a copyright license, nor do they need one. Keep in mind that copyright law was written for physical, printed items and those can be redistributed without needing a license. It is only for electronic distribution that copyright law comes into play, because there distribution means making a copy. Apr 1, 2020 at 7:25
  • The part using "technological measures to prevent copying" just can't be distributed under GPLv3. So this whole is moot. If something GPLv3 is distributed alongside stuff under other conditions makes no difference whatsoever on the conditions of separate stuff.
    – vonbrand
    Apr 12, 2020 at 20:39


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