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Re: [gNewSense-users] More on the mp3 issue

From: J.B. Nicholson-Owens
Subject: Re: [gNewSense-users] More on the mp3 issue
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2006 13:30:22 -0600
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20061107)

Brian Kemp wrote:
Well, I've done a little digging, and I found this gem from the wikipedia article on MP3:

Regardless of what the patent policy is today, it could change.

The USPTO issued at least two patents on ideas covering the LZW compression algorithm (commonly used in making GIF files), one to IBM and another to Unisys (this is its own problem with software patents). In 1995, Unisys said:

Unisys does not require licensing, or fees to be paid, for
non-commercial, non-profit GIF-based applications, including those
for use on the on-line services.

Concerning developers of software for the Internet network, the same
principle applies. Unisys will not pursue previous inadvertent
infringement by developers producing versions of software products
for the Internet prior to 1995. The company does not require
licensing, or fees to be paid for non-commercial, non-profit
offerings on the Internet, including "Freeware".

In 1999 Unisys said:

Unisys has frequently been asked whether a Unisys license is required
in order to use LZW software obtained by downloading from the
Internet or from other sources. The answer is simple. In all cases, a
written license agreement or statement signed by an authorized Unisys
representative is required from Unisys for all use, sale or
distribution of any software (including so-called "freeware") and/or
hardware providing LZW conversion capability (for example, downloaded
software used for creating/displaying GIF images).


Unisys is leveraging the same power other patent holders have. Patent license policies can change at the whim of the patent holder. There is no guarantee a patent holder will grant you a license at all.

The patents seem to expire in the US in 2010. In the meantime, I'll use Ogg Vorbis. (The wikipedia article states that the patent issue is partially what spawned all of the competing formats.)

Where this discussion concerns policy recommendations for the entire distribution (as opposed to your own personal use), I recommend checking out the state of patents internationally because gNewSense GNU/Linux is intended for use worldwide.

According to these patents are generally good for 20 years. 20 years from the latest date of grant of any of the patents listed in falls on October 20, 2023 (the "Method for transmitting a TDAC coded audio signal" patent was granted in Norway on October 20, 2003). I offer this as an estimate of when any of the known patents covering MP3 is no longer enforcible anywhere in the world.

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