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[gNewSense-users] The mp3 issue

From: Daniel Taylor
Subject: [gNewSense-users] The mp3 issue
Date: Sat, 09 Dec 2006 15:32:20 +0000
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20061115)

Just took a look around the web looking for bit a guidance on this issue and happened upon an email from RMS to the fedora project:

Here are his comments on the mp3 issue (quoted first is the question from fedora);

> > * What is FSF's position on distributions that ship patented software
> > like mp3 codecs. It seems Blag does for example does this and is listed
> > as a Free software distribution. Also note that shipping mp3 codecs
> > licensed under GPL is a licensing violation since there is no compatible
> > patent grant on it as implicitly specified in the license.

The term "patented software" is confusing since it presumes a patent
that is specifically about the particular program in question.  There
are no such patents; that is not how software patents work.  The issue
is about programs that appear to implement ideas that are covered by

That category includes nearly all large programs -- that is what makes
software patents such a harmful system.  To pick one example, the
kernel Linux, Dan Ravicher found that it implemented 283 US patents.

We think there is nothing wrong with distributing free software that
implements patented ideas, as long as the patent holders don't stop

It's true that Blag is listed as a Free gnu/linux distro right here:

and they include mp3 support, so I think the key issue here is "as long as the patent holders don't stop you", so I think an important decision has to be made do we:

1) remove mp3 support, and push ogg support because of the patent issue.
2) include mp3 support as long as the libraries are gpl'ed?

As I mentioned in the other thread libdvdcss is GPL'ed, but it's illegal under the DMCA (unless your a film professor who wants to use it to extract clips for you students it now seems[1]). But as far as I am aware there is been no legal precedent set in the EU, but then you have the issue of importing it to the USA when people there download it, which would get you in trouble.

The free software directory even lists dvdcss:

I think maybe that new loophole for professors might be the around the issue, it could have it simply ask "are you legally allowed to use this?" and then hit yes if 1) they are covered by the loophole 2) their country doesn't have a law against it.

I know for a while ubuntu backports had a package that simple wget'ed libdvdcss from Hungary I believe, but when backport's became official it got removed.

But then again the good old '/usr/share/doc/libdvdread3/' file still exists for those who know its there.

The solution to this I think is a 'codec installer' where the user can choose it install a free codec if they want to, knowing the legal risks.


- daniel

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