Question on legalities

Martin Owens doctormo at
Wed Jan 6 19:33:12 GMT 2010

Hey Neil,

It really does depend on what codecs and extras.

For all of the totem plugins, you should be fine. Those plugins aren't
illegal in any way, anywhere in the world. There is just a legal grey
area about weather or not that Free Software, maybe, possibly, could be
covered by patents which maybe, possibly be attractive to the owners to
sue over. Even then it's a civil case matter, not a criminal one.

For w32codecs and ms-corefonts, that's illegal. It's copyright
infringement if you start dishing them out.

For playing encrypted dvds, libdvdcss2, check to see if your country has
enacted a law similar to the EUCD and DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright
Act) and also check for clauses that allow for the breaking of
encryption for compatibility. For instance in this case it's probably
more ok to use libdvdcss in the USA than it is in the EU since the
American got a weak compatibility clause that could offer protection.

I think you can ship the flash player deb, but you'll also need to get
the flash player binary that the deb downloads. Check the licensing
agreement to see if you can redistribute.

IANAL, this is just what I've picked up.


On Wed, 2010-01-06 at 18:39 +0200, Neil Coetzer wrote:
> Hi all,
> I would like to get some input on whether or not our LoCo should be
> involved in the following sort of project:
> The most common query/complaint we receive from new Ubuntu users in
> Zimbabwe concerns the lack of proprietary codecs, particularly in
> light of the fact that a lot of people here have no Internet access at
> all and are therefore unable to install them later in the usual
> manner.
> To solve this problem, a script has been written with a graphical
> front-end, to install these codecs offline (packaged with a cache of
> the required packages).
> Our concerns are that since these codecs are not shipped with Ubuntu
> for reasons of the legalities involved, would it be acceptable for us
> to make the script and package cache available on our LoCo site or
> not? We would like to have this available on our LoCo Web site (mostly
> for team members to be able to download and then use later offline
> where necessary), but if the general feeling on this is that it
> wouldn't be "right", then I'll possibly place it on my company site
> instead.
> Any feedback would be appreciated.
> -- 
> Regards,
> Neil Coetzer
> Team Contact
> Ubuntu Zimbabwe LoCo Team
> -------------------------------------------
> -------------------------------------------
> Thinking way outside the box

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