Patent issues with automatic codec installation

Chris Jones chrisjones at
Mon Dec 3 23:36:36 UTC 2007

> Date: Sat, 1 Dec 2007 13:35:30 +1300
> From: "Aaron Whitehouse" <lists at>
> Subject: Patent issues with automatic codec installation (was:
> 	Automatic	installation of DVD CSS support)
> To: "Christofer C. Bell" <christofer.c.bell at>
> Cc: ubuntu-devel-discuss at
> Message-ID:
> 	<196947f20711301635g6cfc8a33v8ac04faf4bd817d0 at>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
> > > I would like to draw attention to a proposal that I think is very
> > > important for Ubuntu as a desktop deistribution: the possibility of
> > > automatically enabling CSS decryption support for DVDs, like it is already
> > > possible to retrieve support for certain audio/video endcodings automatically.
> > Please read the comments in the bug you linked to for explanation as
> > to why this will not happen.
> As the comments in the bug state, the reason DeCSS is not included is
> (I imagine) to avoid violating the DMCA.
> The more that I think about the automatic codec installation of
> Ubuntu, the more that I am concerned that the current approach places
> the distribution in murky legal territory. Allowing (encouraging?) a
> user to install patent-violating codecs may not infringe the DMCA or
> copyright, but it still may not be the best idea. Think of Napster
> being sued for allowing others to infringe copyright.
> A large number of people respond to this by saying that they live in
> Europe and that their country does not enforce software-only patents.
> That doesn't matter much, considering that a patent-holder would bring
> any proceedings in countries that did enforce their patents.
> Fedora handles the situation with
> - which
> allows users to purchase non-infringing codecs from Fluendo.
> Perhaps a good compromise would be to default to Codec Buddy and have
> a button for "Multiverse Codecs". When the user clicks the button,
> they could be presented with a message *actively discouraging* them
> from using the multiverse versions and highlighting that they are
> likely to break the law if they do so.
> In an attempt to disarm critics, I ask you to read:
> "On the patent question, Fluendo's official stance is that it opposes
> software patents, but that in areas where they are the law, it has no
> choice but to obey the statutes. Perhaps more importantly, customers
> have no choice either. Some critics of Fluendo's plugin products are
> quick to point out that there are freely available, often GPLed
> libraries that decode the same formats. That is, however, irrelevant:
> the non-free formats are non-free not because of the license on the
> source code, but because of the patents on the format.
> Wherever possible, Fluendo encourages its customers to use patent-free
> formats. "In GStreamer we try to make sure Ogg and Dirac support
> everything that is possible to do with the non-free formats. So at the
> end of the day we feel that by moving people toward Linux and now
> Solaris, and to using an open source framework like GStreamer which
> has top-notch support for free codecs, we do more good than evil for
> the goal of removing the plight of patented codecs, even if our way of
> achieving that is by offering those non-free codecs for sale."
> [...]
> Non-free media formats are fundamentally at odds with free software,
> not because of source code licensing but because of patents. Ignoring
> that fact can mean taking a serious legal risk. As Dave Neary of Wengo
> so concisely expressed it on his personal blog: "People should realise
> that proprietary codecs are just that -- proprietary. And if they cost
> money, that's a great way to realise.""
> I am in no way associated with Fluendo (except for being a participant
> in the codecs beta testing). I am simply concerned that Ubuntu makes
> it too easy to infringe patents.
> As I raised on the mailing list and in a bug report:
> users often end up infringing patents that they never even use because
> the codecs are distributed in composite packages.
> Regards,
> Aaron
> -- 
> FSF Associate Member: 5632

Since when should linux users have to pay for codecs?
Bloody hell. Are we heading down the Windows path?

I would never in my life pay for any codecs? Why? Simply because a user
shouldn't have to.

C'mon, seriously, some common sense required I think.

Chris Jones <chrisjones at>

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