Originally Posted by murraypaul
(GPLv2 explictly says "Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they are outside its scope." GPLv3 says "This License explicitly affirms your unlimited permission to run the unmodified Program.")
I'm hesitant to get into the discussion over specifics on this as I've not studied the GPL in detail but I was under the impression that the GPL3 clause was added to ensure users could run the application on that hardware which is a different issue to VLC's distribution.
Whilst it would also be an issue with GPL'd apps on the App store (especially in a spirit of the license sense), it as you say may not have been a violation by the letter of the license. Users could freely copy and modify the app even though signing prevented them from subsequently running it. GPL 3 clause was added to resolve that.
However, that in itself wouldn't have prevented the distribution of GPL'd software on the App store, it would just side step the spirit of the GPL. If that were the only issue, VLC and other GPL'd apps would be fine from a distribution point of view. What I think caused problems with GPL2 licensed software however, such as VLC, is Apple's addition of extra license restrictions at the time of distribution which is prohibited by the GPL.
However, as said, I've not studied the GPL versions in much detail, so take the above with a pinch of salt. I could be talking rubbish