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15 November 2012, 16:25

Relicensing VLC to the LGPL the hard way

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VideoLAN president Jean-Baptiste Kempf has completed relicensing most of the popular open source VLC media player from GPLv2 to LGPL. In a blog post, Kempf explains the reasoning for the relicensing: the project is trying to attract more developers, especially for app store versions of the application. VLC was removed from the iOS App Store back in January 2011 because it was licensed under the GPL. By the end of the year, the developers had already relicensed libVLC, the core library of the media player.

Kempf goes on to describe the arduous process of contacting several hundred developers, some of whom had stopped contributing to the project years ago. This was necessary as VLC, not unlike the Linux kernel, does not use copyright assignment and thus every change is under the copyright of its author. In his blog post, the developer lists the tools and approaches he used to compile a list of all contributors and their email addresses. In a follow-up post he then explained how he went about contacting the individual patch authors.

The developers created a Python script to make emailing the contributors easier and then sent out emails in batches of fewer than 30 to make processing the answers easier. Since they did not get replies from quite a few of the contributors, the developers had to resort to "stalking", as they put it, to get responses. In the end, some code that could not be relicensed had to be removed from the library because the developers in question could not be contacted or resisted the move to the LGPL.

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