Brian Puccio brian at
Wed Mar 29 13:02:09 UTC 2006

Sorry, need to play devil's advocate...

On Wed, 2006-03-29 at 13:03 +0100, Toby Kelsey wrote:
> Chanchao wrote:
> >  1 Ubuntu simply cannot distribute (support for) anything that is
> >    patented or otherwise not completely Free.
> According to Wikipedia:
> "Additionally, patent holders declined to enforce license fees on open source
> decoders, allowing many free MP3 decoders to develop.

They have declined to enforce it in the past, who is to say they won't
change their mind next week if Linux gains 40% desktop market share over
the next 5 years?  (Pure speculation, but it COULD happen.)

> Furthermore, while
> attempts have been made to discourage distribution of encoder binaries, Thomson
> has stated that individuals using free MP3 encoders are not required to pay fees."

Why are they discouraging it? What methods are they using to do so? Big
expensive lawsuits?

> and from <>
> "However, no license is needed for private, non-commercial activities (e.g.,
> home-entertainment, receiving broadcasts and creating a personal music library),
> not generating revenue or other consideration of any kind or for entities with
> associated annual gross revenue less than US$ 100 000.00."

I can't speak for Canonical, but it would be interesting if they would
qualify under these categories.

> so it seems that legal action over the MP3 format is not a practical problem for
> open-source distributions and users.  Is it not beyond the bounds of possibility
> for the Ubuntu organization to obtain a legal statement from the patent-holders
> that their use of the MP3 format is allowed (effectively a free licence)?

I believe that is exactly what the Fluendo folks did, they even have a
contract, which I haven't even read, for others who wish to be

> Perhaps that would still not be "free enough" for those opposed to using any
> patented process on principle, even if free.

MP3 will never be Free in the Debian/FSF/GNU/etc sense of the word.

> What legal restrictions are there in developing functional replacements for
> w32codecs, and are there any other patents affecting Ubuntu?

w32codecs are a whole nother issue as they involve a breach of the MS
EULA among other things.
                                                   brian at
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