Wednesday, 07 February 2018 08:44

Google ignores licence-violating clones of VLC

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Cloned versions of the popular VideoLAN media player, better known as VLC, with ads embedded and in violation of the VLC licence, have been residing on the Google Play Store for a long time with the search company doing nothing about them, it is claimed.

The website Torrent Freak reported that a clone of VLC, named 321 Media Player, had been downloaded between five and ten million times and earned a 4.5 score from 101,000 reviews.

A second clone, known as Indian VLC Player, has more than 500,000 downloads.

VLC, which has more than 2.4 billion downloads, is released under the GNU General Public Licence which means the code is open for forking. But the licence also says that if the reworked code is redistributed, then that source should be made available to anyone who asks for it.

A long-time Reddit user, Martin Van Ballan, wrote that the 321 Media Player developers had taken "VLC, put in ads, didn't attribute VLC or follow the open source licence, and they're using Media Player Classics icon".

Reacting to this post, a VLC developer wrote that Google had been informed about the application "many months ago".

VideoLAN president Jean-Baptiste Kempf told Torrent Freak: “The Android version of VLC is under the license GPLv3, which requires everything inside the application to be open source and sharing the source.

“This clone seems to use a closed-source advertisement component (are there any that are open source?), which is a clear violation of our copyleft. Moreover, they don’t seem to share the source at all, which is also a violation.”

He added that adding adware and spyware with a clone of VLC was not acceptable.

Kempf said that Indian VLC player appeared to break both copyright and trademark law.

A Google spokesman told the website: "We remove applications that violate our policies, such as apps that are illegal. We don’t comment on individual applications; you can check out our policies for more information.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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