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I have an iOS app that uses the VLCKit framework for it's video player function. Today I got an email from the creator of VLC and in the email is stated this:

According to the LGPLv2.1 VLCKit and libvlc are licensed under, I hearby request the source code for our libraries.

Of course I want to comply with this request but what I'm not entirely sure about is what I should comply with. He wants the source code to his own libraries. Obviously he would already have the source code to his own library so I'm assuming there's some other purpose in him asking this. Is it to see if I have modified/changed it in any way? I haven't so, do I zip up the source files that I downloaded from his website last year and send them to him in an email? My app already does have a link to the source-code on VLC's website in the help/about section. I thought this was sufficient.

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    It's most likely to get you to contribute modifications back, but if you don't know why he's asking, don't ask us the reason why; ask him. – Mason Wheeler Jan 10 '15 at 14:08
  • I just didn't know if this was a standard request and if there was a standard way for me to respond. – Joseph Toronto Jan 10 '15 at 15:21
  • If it was a formal request that required a formal response, it would most likely be coming from a lawyer. At this stage, it's still safe to try ordinary social interaction. :P – Mason Wheeler Jan 10 '15 at 16:14
  • I asked and he replied. Just zip up the source that I used and send it to him. No problem. :) – Joseph Toronto Jan 10 '15 at 18:09
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    You're asking us to speculate why someone else is asking you to fulfil the terms of your license? Why not just ask him? And why does it matter? Just send him the code and move on. – Bryan Oakley Jan 11 '15 at 13:17
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Your question appears to have two parts:

  1. How to comply with an LGPL backed source request.
  2. Why the authors of a library you included would request their own source.

Source distribution mechanics

The first question is pretty mechanical and fairly straightforward. Namely: tar / zip up the files that were used and send them to the requestor. It makes no difference who the requesting person is. You provide the source, as requested.

If you were providing the source via FTP, you could verify the FTP repository was working and have them retrieve the source from there. It's possible that not all variations of the GPL1 licenses will support that approach.

The safest version for distribution or conveyance is directly sending the source.


Rationale of request from library author

Part of providing Free software (that's "Free as in Freedom" means following up and making sure that downstream consumers of the Free software are also complying with the terms of the license.

It's one thing to put up an FTP link or provide a disclaimer of "source available upon request". But it's another level to actually verify that the FTP links do provide the source or that the source is actually available when requested.

It sounds like the creator of the library you used wanted to verify that you were complying with the terms of the license. They (obviously) didn't need their own source code back. They may have been concerned that you made modifications without re-releasing them, too. Given the size of VLCkit, I don't think that was the case. The most likely answer then is they want to make sure you're complying with the terms of the *GPL1 licensing that was used.

And based upon your follow-up comment:

I asked and he replied. Just zip up the source that I used and send it to him. No problem.

It sounds like they were making sure that you were doing your part in the Free software movement.

1 I'm writing under the presumption that other packages were used that were also either LGPL, AGPL, or GPL licensed.

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