Suggestions for Ubuntu Article

Eric Dunbar eric.dunbar at
Sat Jun 11 17:56:27 UTC 2005

> > 1. It's pretty simple. Canonical CANNOT LEGALLY provide MP3 playback
> > or encoding or DVD (CSS) playback without PAYING the appropriate
> > rights holders for the right to do so. We've got lots of people who
> > are righteously indignant about the fact that they'd have to PAY to
> > get access to patents but this is the way things have functioned
> > (quite well, in fact) for the past 100 or so years,
> Yes, I agree.  Only one problem: People don't KNOW that mp3 and dvd are
> restricted formats!  I definitely didn't..  I remember ages ago there
> was this thing of Compuserve having the patent on the gif image format.
> That little joke crippled free imaging software for years and years.

Free imaging software now lives in a thriving ecosystem! JPEG, GIF,
TIFF, BMP and a myriad of other formats. The GIF patent held up some
software but, then again, Compuserve did after all put in the R&D (or
pay someone else for their R&D) to develop the compression algorithms
for GIF... so, we can't exactly hope to get something for nothing. The
whole history of electronics is built on patents. It's *frustrating*
to see ideas not be developed or prices remain high while a patent is
still in effect, but it's also beneficial. Sony and NEC and Apple and
... don't pump billions into R&D for the sake of moving society
forward but to make money. There are much easier ways to make money
using existing capital if anyone can copy you as soon as you come up
with a new idea. But... when the patent expires or technology becomes
obsolete you see a flurry of creative activity -- think about all the
gadgets that are now being made now that things like LEDs, CDs,
transistors, etc. are no longer patented :-).

> So for new users, I think it would be nice if the audio and video
> players popped up an explanation on why they don't play certain formats.
> (By far the most popular formats, too)  Also the software itself could
> be a little more informative when trying to open an mp3..  Because mp3
> is pretty much the de-facto standard for digital music, people would
> assume the software is broken before considering that the most popular
> format in the world could be restricted. (I know I did.. Then downloaded
> XMMS which locked up (wrong default audio system, but only found out
> about this 2 weeks later)

Absolutely. The projects could do a much better job of saying:
"This version of the player XYZ, compiled and distributed by ABC does
not play MP3s because the MP3 format is covered by patent
#666-666-666-69 and requires the payment of licencing fees. If you
would like MP3 playback, please contact your local representative of
the JKL consortium who hold the patent for MP3 licencing information."

IMNSHO: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES could or should a legal and ethical
project provide information pointing a user to a how-to on how to
acquire the source and compile an MP3 player (e.g. lame) that is used
without the patent holders having licenced the player. The only
ethical solution is to point the user to an MP3 player where the
licencing fee(s) have already been paid or to the patent holders
themselves. Pointing to an "open source" project where the patent
rights are ignored would be unethical.

> > 2. Canonical cannot provide instructions on how to install MP3 or DVD
> > playback/encoding because that would be an illegal act too -- they
> > would be facilitating patent violation and would be subject to
> > royalties and penalties as if they themselves distributed the
> > software.
> Can't they just base themselves in a free (speech, etc) country, as
> opposed to the USA, et al. (Which I think Ubuntu already is?)

Then they couldn't do business in a country where patent laws are
respected (nearly all developed countries in the world which means
nearly any country where there's any money to be made ;-).

> > Anyway, get out enjoy the beautiful weather (assuming it's beautiful
> > where you are... we're hitting 30 today in Toronto :)
> Nice..! :) (I've been there and know how nasty it can get.. :) Ok, going
> to enjoy the sunshine..  (Chiang Mai / Thailand :)

If you're in Thailand then 30 would be a cool day ;-). (it's already a
glorious 31 :)


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