VideoLAN marks two decades of open source success

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VideoLAN marks two decades of open source success

Risky decision created the world's most popular streaming video encoder.

One of the world's most successful and widely used open source software projects, VideoLAN, is marking its 20th year of existence this month.

Best known for the popular x264 streaming video encoding app and library, and the well-known VLC media player, the volunteer-driven organisation has released a large range of free and open software over the years.

The non-profit VideoLAN organisation makes available the Movie Creator video editing software, DVBlast MPEG-2/TS demux and streaming app, and several libraries for developers working on audiovisual programs.

This includes the libdvdcss library that can be used to read DVDs that are encrypted with Contents Scramble System digital rights management code.

The legal status of libdvdcss is subject to controversy, and some Linux distributions do not ship with the library out of concerns it might breach digital rights management laws.

These fears are founded on the 2000 police raid on one of the developers of another DVD decryption library, DeCSS, Jon Lech Johansen.

Also known as "DVD Jon", Johansen was arrested by Norwegian police after his home was raided and while still a teenager, put on trial, facing a two-year prison sentence and substantial fines.

Johansen was acquitted in 2003, and although new evidence presented by a Norwegian state prosecutor made the court decide a new trial was warranted, the year after authorities decided not to pursue the matter.

He has since contributed to the development of VideoLAN, being one of close to 1000 volunteers working on the project.

The early years of the new millennium saw a great deal of controversy around content dissemination over the internet and piracy thereof, and legal fights over distribution rights.

"At that time, this was a risky decision for the École Centrale Paris, and the VideoLAN project is very grateful," the organisation said.

VideoLAN was officially launched as free and open software on February 1 2001, but the Paris based organisation's roots go back to an academic project in 1996, comprising client and server applications to stream videos from satellite dishes across a campus network.

Its icon is a reference to road cones that the École Centrale Paris Networking Students' Association used to collect.

The client-server model gone, VLC media player and other software are released under the Free Software Foundation's GNU Public Licence version 2 with clients for all major desktop and mobile operating systems, and with several billions of downloads to date.

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