Fwd: Fluendo MP3 GStreamer Plugin in Main for Dapper?

Aigars Mahinovs aigarius at debian.org
Sun Jan 1 22:17:23 GMT 2006

On 12/31/05, Eric Dunbar <eric.dunbar at gmail.com> wrote:
> Software is tough, but, arguable, there must be a certain level of
> protection given to R&D to ensure that real R&D happens. Most
> important patents are expiring soon anyway (there has been little
> _real_ progress in what users can do with computers since 1984 (except
> for fancy media and web)).

A patent is a deal between inventor and society where inventor tell
everyone how to create some kind of new thing and society agrees to
only allow this inventor manufacture (or allow others to manufacture)
that thing for a limited amount of time.
By definition patents have no sence whatsoever for non-material goods
like books, business methods or software. They only restrict
incremental innovation. For material goods by giving a patent society
learns how that thing is made, however for software just looking at
the software (or analysing it in other ways that copyright allows) is
enough to learn how to make that. Therefore patents on nonmaterial
objects give nothing back to society and thus are useless.

However back on topic of the plugin in question, there are three
separate legal issues: copyright issue (GPL + LGPL + MIT software),
patent licence and distributiors contract.

1. Rythmbox is GPL. Gstreamer is LGPL. As soon as Rythmbox links with
Gstreamer, the result is derrived work licenced under GPL. This now
prevents using the MP3 plugin because of 7. section of GPL. The
workaround is to make an amendment to Rythmox licence specifically
allowing linking non-GPL Gstreamer plugins and removing any patent
bariers from the copyright side.

2. Patent licence. Free software can only be free from the copyright
perspective. Excluding software on grounds of patent-nonfreedom or
trademark-nonfreedom or disruptiveness-to-CIA is in no way related to
the term free software or DFSG. Any software can be found infringing
tens or hundreds of software patents in USA or Japan. In EU these
patents are not valid according to Europen Patent Convention article
52. Same in the rest of the world. Basically they should not be valid

3. You only need to sign the distributors contract if you want to get
the patent licence. If you go there, then major legal chaos insures.

The best way for users would be to just have all "patent-encumbered"
software in the main distribution on the main CD and maybe create a
"US version" CD without anything that is patented in USA - basically a
blank CD envelope (the CD media itself also has lot of patents on it).

Best regards,
    Aigars Mahinovs        mailto:aigarius at debian.org
 |     .''`.         Debian GNU/Linux              LAKA         |
 |    : :' :      http://www.debian.org  &  http://www.laka.lv  |
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