[FFmpeg-user] More Liberal Licensing

Phil Rhodes phil_rhodes at rocketmail.com
Tue Nov 28 14:09:39 EET 2023

 As has been said, it would be essentially impossible to track down everyone who's contributed to a project the size of ffmpeg and gain permission of each to alter the licence, so the discussion is effectively moot. Another reason it's moot is that open source is effectively a religion to a lot of people, Stallman is one of its prophets, and the licence he originated is one of its sacred texts. The question being asked here is perhaps a little naïve but that explains the vehemence of the response. Asking people to give up GPL is like pissing on their sainted aunt.

The thing that always makes me laugh about this is a piece written years ago for O'Reilly in which it was argued that the GPL is unnecessarily confusing, and the person making that argument had been senior in the Perl community. When Perl people are criticising something for being impenetrable, it's probably time to take note.

The thing which makes all this a bit difficult is whether it's possible (or easy) to prove that a given distributed binary is actually compiled from the source code one is offering. I'm not sure that this has ever been tested in court - most of the (L)GPL stuff hasn't, much - but it's not obvious to how someone could prove that if there were ever a dispute. It would be difficult to create a build system which would create a bit-identical binary twice from the same source tree, and other approaches (use of the strings command is often suggested) are obviously far from conclusive and tremendously easy to fake.
In the end, most open source licences work because people mostly obey the spirit of them and, I suspect, for no other reason. I suspect many of them are broken constantly and it's okay because nobody's reading the program flash out of most of the world's shipped SoCs and trying to figure out what's in there.
    On Tuesday, 28 November 2023 at 11:40:39 GMT, Rob Hallam <ffmpeg at roberthallam.com> wrote:  
 As has been stated, it seems vanishingly unlikely there will be a relicense.

However, it seems there is a misconception about the GPL here:

On Tue, 28 Nov 2023 at 10:24, Suminda Sirinath Salpitikorala
Dharmasena <sirinath1978m at gmail.com> wrote:
>*GPL means that all forks need to be public, not that the modifications need to
> be upstreamed.

The GPL does not require "all forks need to be public". A private
entity (company, organisation) can use a GPL'd project internally and
they never have to release their code. [0]

This comes up so frequently it has a FAQ:

Of course, if the product is released, users have the right to request
a copy of the source to the product. That is of course the point of
copyleft- if you build on the freely-available work of other people,
others should be able to use your work freely too.



[0]: Note that another option would be calling an ffmpeg binary from a
(publically-released) proprietary program, but naturally the source of
ffmpeg (including any modifications) would need to be available on
request; and if the two programs had sufficient shared state, they may
be considered as a single program and so again covered by the GPL.
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