K3b & MAD (MP3)

Peter Lewis prlewis at letterboxes.org
Tue Jun 12 15:18:27 UTC 2007

On Tuesday 12 June 2007 14:03:45 Greg Booth wrote:
> > Untested, but I remember people answering this. Install libk3b2-mp3  Not
> > sure why a wrapper can't be uninstalled by default (using a standard
> > package for the actual codec ), but there you go.
> MP3 format is copyrighted there for many distributions make you
> install those codecs as that then places the burden of guilt on YOU
> for installing copyrighted material instead of them for including
> copyrighted material.

Not to be a stickler, but I think that this is an important point. The MP3 
technology is not copyrighted, it's patented. Although many people tend to 
try to lump the ideas together into the term 'intellectual property' (which I 
believe is not particularly helpful) the two concepts are very different.

As I understand it, copyrighting is about asserting a moral right as the 
author of a work. A patent is a different beast entirely, originally devised 
for economic reasons rather than moral ones, and intended to give the 
developers of technology a headstart in the marketplace. Copyright lasts for 
over 70 years depending on the jurisdiction. Patents usually much less (i.e. 
once the headstart has had its effect).

Some of the technology behind the MP3 codec is patented, not copyrighted 
(though to what extent those patents are valid in Europe is debatable, but 
potentially expensive). Patent holders can grant the use of their patented 
technology under certain conditions. In the MP3 example, for institutional 
use and distribution, you have to pay them a licence fee. For personal use 
you don't. Therefore, Ubuntu can't ship the codec (as they are an 
organisation, distributing it to whomever under the GPL), but can't guarantee 
that personal use is its only intent (indeed it's contrary to the spirit of 
the free software). YOU the user however, can download the MP3 codec for 
personal use, as that's one of the conditions under which the patent holder 
will let you use it. There's no guilt involved legally, just the moral stuff 
associated with not using Ogg/Vorbis :-)

I hope that helps to clear things up a bit. I just think that there's enough 
muddying of the waters already with the term 'intellectual property', but 
let's not get patents and copyrights confused.

In addition, I believe that the MP3 patent will be expiring in 2/3 years...



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