I don’t like when companies over generalize. So, when iD CEO Todd Hollenshead made the following remarks, I got a little ticked. Basically, iD is asserting that Quake ports to iPhone must be sanctioned by iD, in order to be released:
“Hollenshead informed us that ZodTTD’s port would be illegal and not sanctioned by the company and, as such, not allowed in the App Store.”
Hold the phone. iD releases the full source of Quake onto the web, under the GPL. A developer then ports to iPhone, and iD calls Apple to halt its release. Apple, appears to oblige.
Now, before you pick up a pitchfork and charge towards iD’s headquarters… there are a few things I’ve discerned are probably going on here. I’m basing these on my understanding of GPL, and a bit of common sense.
I suspect that the developers of these Quake ports are trying to charge for them. An iPhone OS port of Quake takes a lot of time to perfect, and make App Store-polished. That does require the approval and consent of iD to do.
And, that also explains why iD hasn’t been sued yet. If iD were to halt a port of Quake onto a particular device (iPhone), but approve of ports for everything else, that would be a violation of the GPL for which it was originally licensed. In short, iD can’t put the genie back in the bottle. The author of the port would have a case against iD for intimidating Apple into halting the port, and violating the GPL to prevent the port’s release.
So, if it’s free, can developers push it through the App Store? Maybe. In order to be assured legit status, the application probably would have to come without any maps. Those maps could then be downloaded from iD’s source/demo after the application has been installed. This would also allow for the user to install other mods and maps themselves (much like many App Store games offer already). Even though maps may be included with the source, iD could assert that they were just examples for the source code to be used with… that would be a cloudy argument at best though.
And, finally, the argument of the trademark on Quake. You can’t say software if free for use under GPL, and not grant some limited use of the trademark. Might the app have to be sold under a different name? Maybe, I would aruge that it doesn’t. Still, even in the worst light, the port would be allowed to refer to itself as a port of Quake in its description.
Still, the moral of this story is, bad iD. Don’t make broad generalizations about your intellectual property. One, the market will correct any lies of omission. And, two, you’ll be fingered for intentionally leaving it out.
But, in all of this, you can start to see why we at MechaWorks are only working on air tight applications, that are locks to be posted on App Store. We’d like to innovate, but Apple isn’t letting us. Without any assurance that our investment can make it to market, I’m not going to let my company burn money on the project. Especially in this economy…
Do I blame Apple for halting the app’s release? In this case, no, since there appears to be a valid reason. But, this is just goes to show you that you shouldn’t make the investment in a groundbreaking app, if you aren’t willing to let Apple rip the ground out from under you. If a company wants to sue a developer, Apple getting involved just leaves everyone with a bitter taste, consumers included.