Idea for expanded support of some non-free software

Petri Pennanen suvarin at
Thu Dec 9 17:31:20 CST 2004

On Thu, 2004-12-09 at 15:45 -0500, thully at wrote:
> I see that many of these programs can't be distributed - I've been saying that
> for the last few posts.  I accept that, and I feel that they are doing what
> they can considering what I've heard about these licensing issues from this
> thread (I thought MP3 playback could be distributed, for example, since many
> free distributions do distribute it - just not MP3 encoding software).

I do realize that you realize the restrictions :) I was trying to
discuss the full width of them. I don't believe dummy packages are a
legal solution, to name one thing.

The mp3 patents seem to apply to both encoders and decoders. I know
wikipedia is not a very authoritative source but it's all I can dig up
at the moment:

        "Until the key patents expire, Open Source Software / Free
        Software encoders and players appear to be illegal in countries
        that recognize software patents."

The licensing site for mp3 seems to confirm this:

SuSE includes mp3-playback, so does Mandrake. USA and Japan based
companies don't since these countries recognize software patents. If
they will be able to continue with this depends on if EU will allow
software patents (which I sincerely hope they don't). 

Canonical is based on the Isle of Man, which is not a member of the EU.
I don't know the patent laws of that country. Even if it would be legal
to distribute this stuff on Isle of Man problems could arise in the US.

The larger issue here is that software patents will cause a great amount
of grief without benefit to anyone except the companies that own huge
patent portfolios.

> At this point, I'm mostly just requesting that Ubuntu try to ensure that these
> packages work well - and I see this not happening in the case of Flash, with
> the sound server issue.  The same version of Flash (7.0.25) worked fine with
> Warty, but a change in Hoary broke Flash's sound (note that Flash is the same
> version, only free packages were updated).
> Because this is not the fault of Flash but Gnome's sound server, it seems like
> this is a reasonable issue to investigate.  Desktop users will expect that if
> they go to a web page in Firefox and install Flash when prompted, sound will
> work - and if it doesn't, it seems like it should be considered a bug in
> Ubuntu.

It does make some sense to work on a fix if the issue if a bug has been
introduced in the sound server. However it's quite possible that the
flash binary and the codweawer package are compiled against an older
library and that small changes in Hoary has caused this breakage. That
would mean the problem only can be be fixed by Macromedia/Codeweavers
(and that it's likely to happen before Hoary is released).

I understand Polypaudio will replace ESD as the Gnome sound server in
Hoary. That might also break applications that can't get a fix from the

What I'm getting at is that supporting applications you don't have the
source code for is frustrating and sometimes downright impossible. 

In another mail you (or someone else, I'm too tired to check) compared
supporting Flash with supporting the non-free Nvidia and ATI drivers. It
is not a fair comparison since the licensing for these drivers is (a
tad) more lenient and because people have much more money invested int
their graphics hardware than in getting Flash to work. 

I'm half asleep. So at least you have an explanation if I fail to make

- Petri

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