This is a problem I hadn’t yet heard of, so it fascinates me to no end. We all know VLC, right? It’s one of the best video players out there, and while I myself generally just install the K-Lite Codec Pack, VLC is definitely a good alternative – and pretty much the norm on Linux. They’re having a problem, though: malicious folk are bundling VLC with malware, offering it up for download as the official VLC, and misleading users in the process. Not only does this violate the GPL – it’s pretty damn low, too.
Some websites, companies, and people are bundling VLC with loads of spyware, crapware, and malware, only to offer it up for download as the official VLC. Not only does this violate VideoLAN’s intellectual property, it also violates the GPL. VideoLAN, understandably, isn’t happy about this.
“At VideoLAN we’re really fed up with all those websites/companies that are tricking our users to download malware and violate our IP by distributing misleading versions of VLC without conforming to the GPL license,” writes VideoLAN developers Ludovic Fauvet, “What bothers us the most is that many of them are bundling VLC with various crapware to monetize it in ways that mislead our users by thinking they’re downloading an original version. This is not acceptable. The result is a poor product that doesn’t work as intended, that can’t be uninstalled and that clearly abuses its users and their privacy.”
The problem isn’t specific to VLC, and it would appear there’s very little VideoLAN can do about this. “They have the money to buy adwords, we don’t. Sadly, as a non-profit organization we don’t have the money to sue them,” Fauvet sighs. A case where an IP lawsuit would be totally justified? Yes, they exist.
Interestingly enough, VideoLAN tried contacting Google to get this issue resolved – but Google didn’t care, as Fauvet notes in the comments to the blog post, since of course, Google is making money off these scammers (you stay classy, Google). It wasn’t until Fauvet’s blog post got a lot of media attention over the weekend that Google contacted them; they are now trying to work out a solution.
Google should take a proactive approach to blocking these scammers from AdWords, but considering they didn’t even kick drug scammers off AdWords, I’m not sure they really care about VLC.