US specific packages, software patent follies and the rise of HTML 5

Luke Kuhn lukekuhn at
Sun Nov 20 18:38:17 UTC 2011

US specific packages? I assume that means compliance with software patents or other such restrictions. Assuming no international trade treaty ever leads to effective blocking of downloads of "illegal" open source software (even through encrypted proxies), I don't see any reason why a (non-corporate) user in the US would comply with the patent laws by not using the global, all-codecs style packages instead. I have libdvdcss and all the restricted codecs on my video editing machines, and even if US law enforcement ever wanted to harass people with "illegal" codecs or DVD/blu ray cracking software, my root partitions are encrypted anyway under very heavy security.

I understand that a "legal" distro is needed as a "fig leaf" so no ISP in a restricted nation can be told that say, has "no purpose" other than to defy software patents, which they could if no distro free of restricted codecs was available.  Still, the focus of efforts should be on making sure the full codec versions of everything work right-and the various Internet forums will direct people to the right versions of packages, patents be damned. To me, the stripped verisons of things like ffmpeg are for show, the full versions are for use. My advice? Make it work, but focus the effort on the full versions.
There is one obvious exception: true FOS-only distro versions, stripping out any codec or algorithm that is encumbered, run (for now) by users not needing to interact at all with Windows or Apple machines. If I could get the entire activist community I serve off Windows, I would publish in open-source codecs, because those are played by default in all the Linux distros! Until then, I have to bite the bullet and use codecs liberated from the corporate people who decided what all those Windows users computers would play be default.
Why this outlook? Beause of "Bug #1" in Ubuntu. So long as a video published in a true open-source codec generates errors when sent to a site like Youtube or Liveleak, so long as a locally-embedded video with open source codecs won't play for a "Windoze" or "Crapple" user without installing extra software first, so long as cheap $10 audio players don't play .ogg or even .wav files, we need to bust the patents, or the commerical patent guys can bust us just by making our media unplayable on most people's computers.
I learned this the hard way back in 2004 publishing audio in .ogg format, only to find that people running Windows machines were not playing them because it takes longer to install a new program than to play the audio-and if they are at work they might not even be able to install a new media player or a new codec anyway. The activist work I do requires that the end consumers of the media not have to make any extra effort to view or hear it, so I have to ignore codec patents.
Eventually HTML5 will fix this, as new browsers will all play open-source embeds and Windows machines with browsers too old for HTLM5 fill up with malware and force reinstallation and updates. This sets up a race between HTML5 and anyone wanting to create enforcement mechanisms for codec patents. This is probably whey MPEG-LA has reportedly declared that all end users (not distributors) are permitted to use the codecs anyway, for not-fear of speeding adoption of their competitor HTML5. I seriously hope every patented codec falls into disuse by 2020, just as I hope to see music and movies made and distributed freely by hobbyists dominate the media someday, displacing commerical content.
> Message: 2
> Date: Sat, 19 Nov 2011 07:40:54 -0800
> From: "Len Ovens" <len at>
> To: "Ubuntu Studio Development & Technical Discussion"
> 	<ubuntu-studio-devel at>
> Subject: Re: distro installs
> Message-ID:
> 	<e9e92be3799d0cac798056437fd1b146.squirrel at>
> Content-Type: text/plain;charset=iso-8859-1
> On Fri, November 18, 2011 11:36 pm, Ralf Mardorf wrote:
> > On Fri, 2011-11-18 at 22:14 -0800, Len Ovens wrote:
> >> Can a dummy package be made that makes it look like they are
> >> installed? There must be a proper way of doing this.
> >
> > # equivs-control <package name>
> > # gedit <package name>
> > # equivs-build <package name>
> > # dpkg -i <package name...deb>
> >
> >
> So, from looking at the docs at the link, it would seem that the two extra
> packages need to have their "provides" lines checked to make sure it
> satisfies anything the normal packages provide and then just not ship or
> select the normal packages.
> That sounds too simple to be true ;-)  Next question becomes are the
> "normal" packages separate? or are they included as part of another
> package we also need? Is there a way of not installing a part of a
> package? Or is it easier to just do a second install process that forces a
> writeover. I have had an install that wants to remove not only the depend,
> but everything that depends on it including software I want to use.
> Synaptic is pretty smart.....
> Anyway, it would be best not to have to maintain a US specific package
> that is the same as another package just to change two files...
> Len
> -- 
> Len Ovens
> ---
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