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VLC-developer VideoLAN sends legal notice to Indian ministries over ban (techcrunch.com)
236 points by jmsflknr 55 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 75 comments



President of VideoLAN here: it is what I did this weekend with the help of the IFF.

We’ll see what happens next… AMA


Hey! Just wanted to say I'm a huge fan of VLC, you saved me from having to look for codecs for Windows Media Player about a decade ago.

But I wanted to ask, the Indian Govt said they banned VLC because there was a hacked version that was infecting users' computers. Do you think that was the actual reason or was it something else and they just used that for cover? To me, "someone hacked a version and put malware into it" is just not a reason to ban the software outright, it's like if they banned Windows because someone got a virus.


> Do you think that was the actual reason or was it something else and they just used that for cover?

I have no clue at all. All this thing feels weird.


No question from me, just a thank you for fighting the good fight and making quality software


Thanks for all your hard work. VLC is such a high-quality piece of software. I hope this is all resolved.


What’s your strategy? Do you know if this strategy has seen success in India? What are the checks and balances that the Indian government has to resolve these matters?


> What’s your strategy? Do you know if this strategy has seen success in India?

Ask questions to try and get answers and then build a case if needed. And use lawyers if needed.


Do you have money for lawyers being a FOSS project and all?


Enough to start, yes.


Have you tried writing to the large ISPs in India that seem to be blocking your website? You may want to do that while the current case is in progress. At the least, it would give you additional information to plan next moves. Perhaps, IFF can help determining the top ISPs that are blocking.

I wish you good luck in your case.


The government of India gives ISPs lists of things to block with no explanations, and they label them confidential, so I would not expect anything useful from an ISP.


> Have you tried writing to the large ISPs in India that seem to be blocking your website?

No answers from any of them.


Will VLC ever have a native dark skin? I love the software and have been using it for well over a decade, but the 3rd party skins out there range from mediocre to terrible. I think a lot of people would find this very valuable, thank you.


> Will VLC ever have a native dark skin?

yes


Thank you!


Nothing to ask. Just thank you so much for all these years of painfree video watching.


Do you have the list of ISPs blocking VLC? I am from India, and I can access videolan.org, download windows and Android app.


Just wanted to say I think VLC is awesome! One of the first things I install on a new computer. Thanks for all the teams hard work and good luck with this situation.


Playing empty video files when loop is enabled makes vlc freeze and impossible to close.

Please fix it.


It was fixed at least 2 or 3 releases ago.


I'm running 3.0.16, doesn't seem fixed


Thanks for this.


This seems to be a shadowban by possibly overzealous/incompetent ISPs.

I am in India and able to access and download VLC through my ISP from the official videolan website.

It is very likely the case would get thrown out as the party to which the notice is served (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) might just submit an affidavit / explanation to the court that no ban has been issued. That would leave videolan with the option of pursuing the ISPs and then it becomes murky. They should probably also add the ISPs (at least the big ones) that are blocking the website as additional defendants so they can issue sworn affidavits on whether there is a shadowban in place.

I absolutely don't get why videolan needs to be blocked. I hope they get the blockage lifted.


> This seems to be a shadowban by possibly overzealous/incompetent ISPs.

I suspect we won't get many people joining this discussion to say that private companies are allowed to do whatever they want, and it's not censorship because they're not the government, and if you don't like your ISP shadowbanning websites then you can just change ISP.


It is a little more complicated than that. A large percentage of people in India access the Internet from their mobile phones and are likely to be using the data plan of their mobile carrier. So, they do not have that luxury.


Then they should just start their own mobile carrier. /s


As easy as 1-2-3, right?


You’re attempting to overdramatize by appropriating the term ‘shadowban’. It does not mean what you pretend it to mean and it doesn’t help you make your case, it just makes you look like you’re overselling.


What term would you use instead of shadowban when one or more entities are blocking a person (or in this case a company) and access to their website without revealing why the block was in place in a transparent manner?

The aggrieved party has filed a Right to Information petition with the Indian government agency (equivalent to a Freedom of Information Act request under US law).

I think the term is appropriate esp. since some ISPs are not blocking it.


"Ban." The shadow in shadowban refers to the fact of the ban itself being hidden, whereas in this case the block is plainly visible to anyone affected.


I'd argue that shadowban is visible to everyone but the banned, which is the case here (as in VLC not being notified).

They can deduce that through the reduced download counts, but so can the shadowbanned users here through the vote counts.


We've never said that Google is "shadowbanned" in China before, nor any other site filtered by the great firewall.


There is an article that specifically says that VLC wasn't informed of the decision. Underlining this by saying shadowbanned wouldn't be overselling it, right?


Nobody ever notifies the target if they block them. Do you think Google sends you an email if they put your server on their gmail blacklist? It’s just that, a block.

The trend where some government action causes third parties to voluntarily block things even if it’s not directly required is called a ‘chilling effect’:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilling_effect


Incredibly stupid ban. Because there are fake VLC .exe files that are infected with malware that have been circulating, the govt blocks access to the official site.

Tells you volumes about what they understand of tech, and should give you enough salt to view all their "digital" claims and plans with.


Here is the blog post by the Internet Freedom Foundation: https://internetfreedom.in/videolan-issued-legal-notice-to-d...


Nice! About time unilateral arbitrary bans on good tech by stupid beurocrats and naive courts gets challenged.


I mean the Chinese security issue might save the excuse because they can claim technological incompetence, but otherwise I would expect that any ban of VLC has come down to direct corruption.


The Chinese security issue explanation does not match the dates of the ban.


If the Indian government doesn’t respond, what measures does VideoLAN, being based out of France, reasonably have? They can’t really sue the Indian authorities.


They can sue, they'd have to hire a local lawyer of course. If the Indian gov can take action affecting you, being able to petition for redress is essential for rule of law.


> They can’t really sue the Indian authorities.

They can. It's likely the Internet Freedom Foundation will assist them in doing that.


That’s indeed my plan…


> They can’t really sue the Indian authorities.

I can't say we are doing the best things but at least you can still bring the govt to court here in India. Judicial system here is slow, but it at least still works...


> Judicial system here is slow, but it at least still works...

Defaults in India are very fast.


According to the article, they work together with the Internet Freedom Foundation[1], which is a NGO based in India.

[1] https://internetfreedom.in/


I wonder if someone in the government has something against France. http://free.fr/ has been blocked in India since years! There are quite a few open source related websites hosted there, all inaccessible to me over clearnet.


They can throw the show cause notice, and get a default in 1 month if nobody responds.


Related:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32441911 ("VLC media player banned in India", August 2022, 168 comments)


The Indian government has been banning sites more frequently for the last 2 years for some reason It was mainly porn sites in the beginning but it's seems to be getting out of hand now


Yeah no doubt it's gonna be China in a few years time if the current government remains in power.



The real issue, and it is one affecting all governments world wide, is pay, working conditions, and culture.

Whether the US, Canada, or I presume India, pay for tech expertise does not even remotely match the private sector.

If you want highly skilled devs, and management, people who understand and are experts at tech, you are not going to get them at 1/4 of what is possible in the private sector.

And even if somehow you pulled in nationalistic, 'serve your society' tendencies, the next part appears. Work culture.

Government work needs to be highly regulated, very controlled, stodgy by nature, because it is for the public good. It needs checks and bounds far beyond a private corp, or at least different than a private corp, this is the nature of the beast.

Private corp has mechanisms to ensure success, the primary being sink or swim profit motive.

Government requires monitoring and mission success determination in a different way.

A stodgy, stifling way.

The two times I took government contracts, it was an inordinately stifling, red taped, inability to think creatively culture, a stifling type of work.

So you have ridiculously low pay, coupled with stifling, non-creative work culture.

Yeah.

So no wonder no one knows how hacks work, or what VLC is, or how to enforce bans / etc

The competence is, sadly, just not there.

And this affects all of us.


"Government work needs to be highly regulated, very controlled, stodgy by nature, because it is for the public good. It needs checks and bounds far beyond a private corp, or at least different than a private corp, this is the nature of the beast."

Few want to pay for this


There is nothing to "pay for". Government work is like this, already, everywhere. It has been for thousands of years. Canada, US, India. It has another name, bureaucracy.

It is to the public good, that there are checks and bounds on power, forms to fill out, procedures to be followed.

Yet this is counter to creativity, to moving fast, to embracing the new.

But if governments at least paid market rates for tech labour, not 1/4 of it, they would at least overcome one hurdle.


>There is nothing to "pay for".

There is: salary. I assume that's what GP meant, that one way to attract talent (beyond other important stuff like preventing dumb fiefdoms, trying to keep down unnecessary red tape vs reasonable, general workplace quality etc) despite other unattractive aspects is to offer a very competitive salary/benefits. A lot of government jobs in general do still have some solid benefits, but the salaries now lag fantastically behind equivalents in the private sector for many key roles, and "spirit of public service!" only does so much.

This is true all the way to the very top in the US at least. Presidents used to get paid more: $25k at the founding (what President Washington got) would probably be something like $4.5m today. $200k in 1969 would still be about $1.5m today. But POTUS salary now is still $400k. In my opinion it should be more like $100-250m. It's easily one of, if not the, single most important jobs on the planet at the head of one of the largest, most powerful and highest revenue "organizations". It should pay more or at least equivalently to CEOs of big corps, enough that POTUS will never feel financially beholden. And onwards down, Senate should probably be $25m, House $7m etc. Pay structures throughout gov don't match the responsibility and impact the jobs have on the world. Trillions of dollars and millions to billions of people are impacted by the decisions of people getting paid a relative pittance and we wink and pretend that it's some noble thing while of course what actually happens is everyone is expected to either be independently rich or to cash in somehow or be beholden to rich patrons. It's stupid.

But the political will for paying for doing it right doesn't seem to be be there anymore.


> In my opinion it should be more like $100-250m. It's easily one of, if not the, single most important jobs on the planet at the head of one of the largest, most powerful and highest revenue "organizations". It should pay more or at least equivalently to CEOs of big corps, enough that POTUS will never feel financially beholden.

Good idea in principle. But the problem is not the salary. It's all the campaign contributions with strings attached which they have to take to even make it to office.

This is what you should tackle first before you look at the president's salary if you want to assure independence from backers.

Also, most presidents have already been really rich and they really don't need it. The path they need to take (congress, senate) to even be considered pretty much guarantees they are already rich and influential.

Also, a good president is one that doesn't do it for the money obviously. And it's still a LOT.


While I agree with VLC and I wish they succeed, their notice says:

“Any such proceedings, if initiated, shall be solely at your risk, cost, and for breach of your own rules,”

And it is funny they include "cost", as if every country in the planet had this bizarre custom of making the loser in a legal proceeding to pay for the lawyers of both parts.


You mean almost every democracy other than the US?


More to the point, as usually happens in India.


I can't find it now, but there was a VLC CVE report about being able to execute code remotely, with a CCP threat actor using it. VLC said it was due to a fake version of VLC being distributed.

Could this all be related to that?


https://www.ghacks.net/2022/04/11/symantec-says-that-hackers...

Maybe related? To my knowledge, India hasn't said anything about why it's banned.

And everybody agrees the issue was a modified version of VLC being distributed, the original report put it in a confusing way that made it sound like base VLC was susceptible.


Yes, exactly. My guess was that it was an overreaction/mistake and now admitting that would embarrass people.

Especially since banning the real VLC would increase the risk to Indian users by increasing the adoption of the fake VLC.


This does not match the dates of the ban.


It might fit the dates, according to you the site was blocked in February and the malware campaign started late last year. It'd require independent verification from the Indian government, but it'd be possible.

I do find it hard to believe India was on top of things enough to catch the malicious version early but stupidly thought the best solution was to block the official version. But it was possible.



"not found"


There's some redirect triggered by javascript, disable js and it'll work.


VLC is fantastic but I haven't used it in a long time. I switched to MPC-HC. I found that the built-in codecs VLC used were not the best.


That's been depreciated for several years. Most people these days go with either VLC or MPV.

https://mpv.io/


Tx for suggestion but neither of those are reasonable alternatives imo. VLC doesnt use your system codecs, it uses its own built in ones, and MPV "provides no real GUI" according to their website. It seems that MPC-BE is a similar thing to MPC-HC which is still in development.


Try mpv before dismissing it like that!

They don't provide traditionnal ui controls, but there are still a few buttons, play, pause, next/previous, a seek bar, subtitles/audio track, etc. Everything is pretty barebones as it's running on the subtitle engine AFAIK.

You generally drag and drop media to play it, or open files directly (or with the command line). These days I mostly use mpv, it ha great HW accel, wayland support, etc. I still use vlc for more involved cases like playing media off the network (its original use- case!), disk or webcams, etc. Though mpv can handle most of these too!


MPV has front-end projects that provide a more complete GUI if that’s something you’re after:

https://github.com/mpv-player/mpv/wiki/Applications-using-mp...


MPC-HC is not under development since 2017. Please switch to something else.


Oh I never even noticed that. It's been working perfectly since then though. It seems MPC-BE is a similar project that is still under development.




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