VLC, a popular cross-platform media player, is no longer available for download on the App Store. Three and a half months later following its iPad debut, Apple has taken down the application citing problematic licensing issues. Making this removal even more strange, it appears Apple acted on the basis of a copyright infringement notice filed by Remi Denis-Courmount – one of the developers working on VLC!

The problem is, the team that ported VLC to Apple’s iOS ecosystem has published the program under the GNU General Public License, which means the app should be available to anyone under a free and open distribution model.

The App Store is a curated and closed platform which distributes digital-rights managed software to the extent that clashes with the promise of open distribution of the GNU General Public License.

Therefore, Apple had no choice but to comply with the formal request if it didn’t want risking copyright infringement accusations. Remi Denis-Courmount commented on the removal on the official site of the VideoLAN project by saying it was the only possible outcome:

At last, Apple has removed VLC media player from its application store. Thus the incompatibility between the GNU General Public License and the AppStore terms of use is resolved ? the hard way. This end should not have come to a surprise to anyone, given the precedents.

So, there you go. This time blame it on developers, not Apple. VLC Media Player was ported to iPad in September of last year by developer Applidium. The app was later provided as a universal binary that allowed any iDevice to play a wealth of video file formats outside H.264 and MOV, including damaged files.

With VLC, owners of iPhone, iPod touch or iPad can transfer and watch ripped DVD and Blu-ray movies on their devices and play dozens of media formats, including the most popular ones like Xvid, AVI, DivX and the Matroska video (.mkv) container. If you’ve downloaded this app on the App Store, you will still be able to use it on your device but don’t count on any future updates until VLC Media Player for iOS re-appears on the App Store.