Restricted Formats on a Free Operating System [was: Another Unofficial UbuntuGuide?]

Eamonn Sullivan eamonn.sullivan at
Mon Nov 7 17:10:44 UTC 2005

On 07/11/05, Timothy A. Holmes <tholmes at> wrote:
> My solution is to make sure that the there is excellent (read that as
> below basic level) documentation on EXACTLY what to type etc to do the
> source installs)  I understand we cant distribute the software, but if
> we can make the compile/install process as user friendly and painless
> and un-intimidating as possible, that would be a huge start

I wonder if another possible solution (and a business opportunity) is
to make it crystal clear to users how much money the patent holders
are demanding for some multimedia codecs/decrypters. A company could
package the codecs into ubuntu add-ons, priced at multiple levels,
depending on the pound of flesh demanded by the firms who control
them, plus a reasonable margin for the effort of tracking changes in
Ubuntu at six-month intervals. This could actually appeal to the
corporates, or the very honest.

These are just wild guesses on what it would cost:

MP3 playback -- $1 (or 75 pence, or 1 euro)
QuickTime/MP3 -- $20
QuickTime/CSS/MP3 -- $30 (demanded by the film cartel for a DVD
player, which would be region restricted probably).
QuickTime/Microsoft/CSS/MP3 (the whole shebang, essentially w32codecs
plus CSS2) -- $100 (or thereabouts, because  Microsoft would likely
want something close to a Windows XP license to allow this, especially
in its arch-enemy operating system.)

I had heard on this list several months ago that a company was doing
something like this, but I've heard nothing since. Whether there would
be enough honest users out there for a viable business model is an
open question, but it would make it much clearer to users why a *free*
operating system can't afford this.


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