Relicensing VLC to LGPL

As you might know, or might have read, I have spent a lot of my time to relicense libVLC, aka VLC engine, from GPL to LGPL.

This is a continuation of the LGPL posts, please read the previous posts, if you have not done it already.

Here is the last part, that should answer a few questions I've had.

Part 3: numbers and Q/A

How many lines of code were relicensed?

I have not done the total count, but the LGPL modules are now around 230,000 lines of code.

The GPL modules are now around 150,000 lines of code.

Does this mean the VLC will come back on the iOS store?

Well, the honest answer is still maybe. I do not have a crystal ball.

First, I have no checked the compatibility between the AppStore and the LGPL, and then, as far as I know, MobileVLCKit, MediaLibraryKit and the VLC audio and video outputs for iOS are still totally GPL.

And, as far as I know the legality of the AppStore terms and the GPL is still shady.

Did you have to contact companies?

Yes. There was a limited number of people who used their corporate email and therefore, we needed the check from their hierarchy. I can think about SFR, Viotech, BBC, M2X, Jutel and Actech, but their might have been more.

When working for companies, it is probable that you handed over our patrimonial rights to the company. Therefore, we needed to get the OK. Since this is more a singularity than the norm, this went quite smoothly, in all cases.

Are you crazy?

Probably, yes. Why?

Did you have some difficulties to convince some people?

Well, yes. Some people, notably very old contributors, wanted more details and information with the change. But a couple of mail or a call were enough to explain everything.

Do you think the GPL is a bad license?

No, the GPL is a great license, but it is not the magic silver bullet that works all the time. Moreover, times have changed, and a lot of companies know that contributing back is more cost-effective than forking a project, licensed under a more liberal license.

Did you learn stuff doing this?

A lot. Legally, mostly, but also socially and about our community.

What about other modules?

The main question is about the streaming modules. So far, I don't know. It might come, or might not. This will depend a bit of the first reactions on the current relicensing.

Are you available for hire?

Yes :)

What if you did a mistake?

Well, I am quite sure I did not. I've spent a lot of time to make stuff correctly, and it was long and boring.

Yet, in the unlikely eventuality I did a mistake, here are the failsafes:

  • I am quite sure of the support of the top 32 (2⁵) contributors of VLC, which account for more than 47200 commits which represent over 91% of all VLC commits,
  • I have received 230 people agreements, which is a large chunk of coders contributors on VLC, probably more than the half,
  • The code from people not responding was not relicensed,
  • The process was correctly done and validated,
  • VideoLAN and ECP support the change,
  • VLC would very likely be considered as an Œuvre collective under the direction of VideoLAN by legal ruling in France. I will detail this point in the next part,
  • Unknown contributors that we haven't heard back from will probably be considered as missing, in a similar case than the case of an œuvre orpheline.

Therefore, I don't think I did a mistake, and if I did a mistake, I think it will be only on a very limited piece of code (easy rewritable), and I think VideoLAN and VLC authors would be allowed to relicense it anyway.

French Authorship law and community projects

NOTA BENE: if you are an idealist developer, you are forbidden to read the following because you will not like it.

There are 3 main cases for intellectual works done by a group of authors: l'œuvre composite, l'œuvre collaborative and l'œuvre collective. Of course, those concepts apply very badly for software.

  • The composite work is clearly not in the scope of VLC, because the GPL takes care of that.
  • The collaborative work implies that we only deal with physical entities, which is not true; and that the software is finished, in order to be divulgué, which is clearly not the case for VLC.
  • The collective work implies that some entity is in charge of publication, which is more or less true, seeing that VIA and VideoLAN have done that so far; but it implies that each contribution cannot be traced back to a single author, which is also not true.

We are in a mix here, because no situation perfectly fit. Seeing the jurisprudence of the last 30 years on this, we would probably be considered to be in the last case by a judge.

Seeing that the very large majority of contributors have agreed, that we have contacted all the contributors (and I have proofs of that), that VideoLAN is doing the coordination, that we are not denaturing the spirit of the final work, a French judge would very likely consider that VideoLAN and the main VLC authors have the rights to relicense the last pieces anyway.

This was confirmed by a few lawyer friends of mine.

Do I like this situation?

Not really, but dura lex sed lex.

And it probably saves us from overzealot annoying people.

Yet, I don't think I did a mistake.