[vlc-devel] Re: VLC on TheOpenCD

Chris Douty Chris_Douty at ampex.com
Wed Nov 10 21:34:16 CET 2004

On Monday, November 8, 2004, at 02:01 PM, Henrik Nilsen Omma wrote:

> Hello,
> I've posted in the forum, but it was suggested I repost here:
> We've been using the VLC player for some time to launch some videos 
> from the CD browser of TheOpenCD. This time we have also decided to 
> include it as an actual featured program on the disc as well. As 
> always we have several issues and questions Smile
> As before, there is the issue of deCSS. We would prefer to distribute 
> a copy by default that does not have deCSS on it so that the same 
> version of the CD can be distributed to all sorts of places without 
> concern. TheOpenCD is increasingly being distributed by schools, 
> universities and government agencies who tend to ask specifically 
> whether there are any IP issues to be concerned about, and we need to 
> be able to answer clearly No. (in fact most of these people are 
> unfamiliar with open source and are really asking about the copyright 
> of the applications themselves, but still, there cannot be any gray 
> issues).

Dear Henrik,

DeCSS is not the only sensitive issue in VLC.  Several of the demux and 
decoder technologies may be covered in patents.  I have not done an 
exhaustive review by any means, but MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 technology are 
covered by many patents in the USA and presumably the EU.  Just because 
the specifications are available from the ISO does not mean that 
implementations are free and clear.  I believe that several audio 
codecs are covered by patents as well.

The VideoLAN project does not appear to require a copyright assignment 
for contributions like many of the core GNU projects do.  Note that the 
Linux kernel does not use copyright assignment either, but is jointly 
owned by all contributors.

One possible way to shift liability is to distribute only source code.  
Then the burden of making a possibly patent infringing "device" is on 
the user who compiles VLC.  (IANAL.  This is not legal advice.)  
However VLC is a bitch to compile because of its many dependencies.  
Come to think of it, VLC is a GPL'd application so you are required to 
make the source available to all parties to whom you distribute the 
binary.  A link to videolan.org is probably good enough, but you may 
need to take stronger measures in case the website disappeared 
tomorrow.  The GPL requires that you make the source available for 
several years.

Finally, a mailing list is a really bad place to ask for legal advice.  
This might be a great place to solicit for information, but the data 
must be reviewed by counsel competent in international IP issues.

Good luck,
	Chris Douty

Christopher Douty <Chris_Douty at ampexdata.com> +1-650-367-3129
Senior Engineer, Software & Systems  - AMPEX Data Systems Corp.

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