[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Edlug Archive Dec 2005 ]

Re: [edlug] SuSe, Copyrights & the EU



I'm not sure of the exact details but it is something like this:

The people who own the mp3 patent started enforcing it a while back. The patent covers the mp3 format itself, it is not like a copyright of a particular program that uses mp3. They own the concept of a computer program that makes use of the mp3 format. That means that now you have to pay them £1 million (I think that's the actual sum) for a license if you want to be allowed to publish software capable of using mp3's. The people who created the free mp3 encoders/decoders for Linux haven't paid this, and the various Linux distro's haven't paid this, so it would be a patent infringement for them to distribute mp3 capability with their software. Even if they did pay the license any software that can legally use mp3's cannot be free software, due to the restrictions of the mp3 patent license.

The patent doesn't apply in some countries, so in those countries it is legal to install the old free software mp3 support for your Linux distro. In the UK it is illegal, I'm pretty sure.

The Linux company fluendo (http://www.fluendo.com/) recently paid for the mp3 license and released a free mp3 plugin for GStreamer. The plugin is legal, free of cost and is released under an unrestrictive MIT license. A Linux distro could sign this license with Fluendo (which is free and exists to satisfy Fluendo's upstream licensing obligations with the original mp3 license) and could then legally distribute their distro with mp3 support in GStreamer.

It is still not free software however. I think that if you distribute your software in a country in which the mp3 patent applies then you can only distribute fluendo's plugin in its binary form, no source code. The plugin is also not GPL-compatible, so it can't be shipped with any GPL-licensed plugins that might use the mp3 plugin. Same goes for GPL-licensed media players - they can't use the plugin.

Apparently most GStreamer plugins, the Totem movie player and the Banshee music player are LGPL-licensed, which means they can be used with Fluendo's plugin.

Basically the mp3 format is a non-free, patent-encumbered format and the sooner we get rid of it and replace this sort of thing with open formats like ogg vorbis the better.

I think the story about DVD support is pretty much the same. Linux distro's come with DVD playback capability, but what they cannot legally supply for patent reasons is the ability to decode encrypted DVDs. Most commercial DVDs, like movies, are encrypted. There is no Fluendo-style plugin for playing encrypted DVDs. It is legal to install the DVD support if you live in a country where the patent does not apply. I think it does apply in the UK.

On 1/4/06, Robert Mclay <the80sphreak@xxx.xxx.xxx> wrote:


Hi Everyone,

Can you clarify a point for me..?

What exactly is the reason MP3/DVD/etc support has
been pulled from Linux distros (e.g. Suse 9.3) and
to what extent is putting it back in illegal..?

Cheers,
Rab



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