Ownership of dynamic objects

Any object-oriented system or language that doesn’t have automatic garbage collection has many potential pitfalls as far as pointers go. Therefore, some standards must be adhered to as far as who owns what.


Arguments passed into a function are owned by the caller, and the function will make a copy of the string for its own internal use. The string should be const gchar *. Strings returned from a function are always a copy of the original and should be freed after usage by the caller.


name = gst_element_get_name (element);   /* copy of name is made */
.. use name ..
g_free (name);                           /* free after usage */


Objects passed into a function are owned by the caller, any additional reference held to the object after leaving the function should increase its refcount.

Objects returned from a function are owned by the caller. This means that the caller should _free() or _unref() the objects after usage.


peer = gst_pad_get_peer (pad);          /* peer with increased refcount */
if (peer) {
  .. use peer ..
  gst_object_unref (GST_OBJECT (peer)); /* unref peer after usage */


When retrieving multiple objects from an object, an iterator should be used. The iterator allows you to access the objects one after another while making sure that the retrieved set of objects remains consistent.

Each object retrieved from an iterator has its refcount increased or is a copy of the original. In any case the object should be unreffed or freed after usage.

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