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There are already lots of questions about FFmpeg licensing but I could not find one for my specific case.

I'm making an application which is able to play video files using FFmpeg (through a LPGL component ffmediaelement).

I currently use binaries from here
And I picked a release with the following name: win64-lgpl-shared-4.3.zip

Since it is only for decoding I have three questions:

  • Is it ok to use this library with closed source software (I guess LGPL allows it)?
  • Is there any codec licensing issue (x264 and x265 are disabled)?
  • Can I distribute the binaries with my application or at worst provide a link to let the user download them?

Thanks for any help, this is so difficult to understand this matter!
I cannot afford to hire a lawyer ...

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  • 1
    So you want free legal advice how to best sell other people work for your profit Dec 2 '20 at 23:45
  • Even if I can understand your point of view that's not really constructive. If the whole purpose of my product was to play video I would agree with you. But for your information the video decoding is a small piece of feature in my product which I spend more than 2 years building.
    – ju2pom
    Dec 3 '20 at 7:55
  • 3
    Did you look at FFmpeg License and Legal Considerations? They give a pretty straightforward list of things that you can do to comply with the license. Item 18 specifically mentions x264.
    – Brandin
    Dec 4 '20 at 7:51
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Since it is only for decoding

This is irrelevant

Is it ok to use this library with closed source software (I guess LGPL allows it)?

LGPL and GPL don't forbid any usage, so clearly yes. Those licenses impose restrictions for the distribution of software, not for their usage,

Is there any codec licensing issue (x264 and x265 are disabled)?

You should check if you are using some of the optional parts of ffmepg which are under GPL. Check the licensing docs which comes with ffmpeg, it contains a list of those parts. Don't expect others to do this for you, only you know precisely which parts of ffmpeg you are using.

Can I distribute the binaries with my application or at worst provide a link to let the user download them?

You can distribute the unmodified binaries of a library under LGPL together with your application without the need to put the latter under LGPL or make your product Open Source. You need to do this in a form, however, that a user can always replace the LGPL lib by another version if they like to. Check and follow the exact license terms which are coming with ffmpeg.

For GPL stuff, you have to be more careful, but if you distribute a software which has the optional feature of using GPL modules which you don't distribute by yourself, but let the user of your application download and install by himself, you are usually safe (but beware, IANAL).

And I picked a release with the following name: win64-lgpl-shared

From the name, I would expect that is what you are after - a version without the GPL parts, as a shared library (which might be exchanged later). But you should either check by yourself that this package contains what this name pretends, or ask in an ffmpeg forum.

See also:

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Why are you trying to row upstream on this? If you cannot afford the legal advice then do the right thing and isolate the GPL stuff from your software - have your software exec the video decoding part of it that's compiled with GPL code. Then point your product's installer to wherever the binaries are along with documentation on how to obtain and install the binaries for years later from now when the hoster of the binaries takes them away and your installer can't download them anymore. Many programs do this for example "rufus" does this with the different Linux bootloader codes it downloads them behind the scenes if the user needs them. As a benefit to this your users can recompile the video playing portion with the x264/265 portions enabled if they have videos in those formats and they don't care about licensing issues.

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