Response to Christian Schaller — Google, the LGPL and software patents

I read Christian Schaller’s post which says essentially that Google is evil because it’s using FFmpeg in Chromium and arguing the legality of it by using an unusual interpretation of LGPL. because Google is using an unusual interpretation of LGPL.

Let’s step back for a second and see this through the point of view of FFmpeg developers. Probably they, just like any other FOSS developer, just want to code kick-ass software, and the license (LGPL) is just a tool to make sure their software is not stolen, so if a company chooses to use FFmpeg, they must contribute the changes back.

Google is contributing back their changes, they are publicly available in their repo. So how could FFmpeg developers loose? Their code will be used in an amazing product, that they will probably use too, it’s a win-win situation. This subject was brought up on the mailing list and nobody complained; Chromium is not listed in FFmpeg’s hall of shame.

Now, is it legal? The only way to know is to bring the issue to court and see the resolution, but who will bring this to court? FFmpeg developers? No. Perhaps H.264 patent holders, but only in countries with wicked patent laws (USA), and who cares about them? If Google looses in court against H.264 patent holders, I wouldn’t consider it evil, quite the contrary.

And finally, Google lawyers said that what the FSF thinks about this movement is irrelevant… damn right! They wrote the license, so? FFmpeg choose the license, and FFmpeg can choose another license if they so wish, in fact, they can re-license to Google in any other license they see fit because they have the copyright. Of course there’s no need for that because LGPL works fine, and the explanation of Google lawyers is completely logical to me.

Personally I cheer the Google Chromium team for such a bold movement, and congratulate FFmpeg developers for making kick-ass software that might soon be even more widely used.


2 thoughts on “Response to Christian Schaller — Google, the LGPL and software patents

  1. Felipe, unusual interpretation of the LGPL? It is the interpretation of almost every lawyer I spoken through over the years, including the lawyers at the company you work for.

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