VideoLAN, the French nonprofit behind the open-source and free media player VLC, is threatening to sue the Indian government for blocking the VLC website without an explanation.
When Indian users attempt to visit the VLC website, they get the message: “Your requested URL has been blocked as per the directions received from the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India.”
In a letter to India’s department of telecommunications, VideoLAN president Jean-Baptiste Kempf wrote: “In March 2022, to our shock and dismay, the URL ‘https://www.videolan.org/’ appeared to have been blocked for viewing in India without any prior notice to me or any other person in the organization.
We obtained a copy of the letter for you here.
“Despite reportage and uproar on social media, no reasons for blocking the URL were provided to us, or to the Indian public.”
The letter also noted that the blocking “is particularly shocking to us, since the Government of India itself endorses the use of VLC as a part of its Digital India initiative, where it has expressed its intention to use open-source softwares for government applications. In fact, the Government of India also appears to use VLC Media Player’s icon and logo on its website promoting open source softwares.”
The letter added: “VLC is currently being used by 80 million Indians, and has consistently seen an average of 25 million downloads per year in India since its release. For millions of Indians VLC is the primary choice for running all kinds of media formats for free.”
There have been speculations that the website was blocked as a result of a hacking campaign by a Chinese hacking group that “exploited the legitimate VLC Media Player by launching a custom loader via the VLC Exports function.” However, Kempf said that the blocking began a few weeks before reports of the hacking campaign, and that the hack only works with an outdated version of the media player.