[FFmpeg-user] Licensing

Phil Rhodes phil_rhodes at rocketmail.com
Mon Sep 8 18:39:22 CEST 2014

It's almost impossible to get any real, substantive information about what is and is not permitted under the various versions of the various licenses used by a lot of free software. Ordinarily one would speak to whoever was in charge, but with most projects there isn't really anyone in charge, or at least not anyone who's legally able to speak for the project in the way that any ordinary organisation would have a licensing department. The main problem is not so much what GPL or LGPL or BSD or whatever actually permits, it's finding out what it permits. Many of these licenses were written, or at least conceived, some time ago, and there are more than a few corner cases. And then you have to worry about what the project concerned is likely to actually feel offended by, and it becomes an issue not so much of law as politics.

This is actually quite a difficult problem which isn't really solved by the most commonly-suggested solution, which is to read the license in question. You will at least need to get a lawyer to look at it, and it is likely to be very expensive. More, possibly, than just licensing a commercial alternative.

My personal understanding is that any time you send an executable to someone you must include the source code. This is obviously inappropriate and pretty silly most of the time, when the end user is non-technical, but that's the rule. Obviously it's a rule that's broken constantly.


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