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Re: [Gnash] gstreamer plugin

From: John Gilmore
Subject: Re: [Gnash] gstreamer plugin
Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2006 18:07:05 -0700

> This is an area we've been looking at in the 64 Studio project, due to 
> the patent licensing problems of MP3 decoders, required by all fully 
> functional Flash players of course. Gstreamer now has a legal MP3 
> plug-in available, from the Fluendo website, and the source of that is 
> available in Debian.

I thought MP3 *de*coders got a royalty-free patent license (to encourage
use of the format) while MP3 *en*coders got soaked for a fee.  Is there
a definitive place where the MP3 patent situation vis-a-vis free and open
software is authoritatively described?

> (and I'm not a lawyer).

Maybe I'm asking the wrong guy.  Let's do some web searching.

This email response from the folks at Thompson says
that "We do allow non-commercial use of our patents.  However, the GPL
and LGPL software allow onward distribution that can easily be

Thus if your distribution or use of MP3 code is non-commercial, it's
apparently not a problem...but don't take my word for it... is where to look for commercial licenses
to the MP3 patents.  (There are apparently a few other fly-by-night
companies that go around and try to shake down MP3 companies for
additional patent licenses, but as far as I know, nobody who's ignored
them has been sued or further harassed.  In other words, the other
claimed patent holders are likely to be scammers.)  This page:

lists the patents that they license out.  You can get a fully paid up
license for PC software for an MP3 decoder for US$60,000 and no per-unit
royalties.  So if some GPL'd software product like Gnash or Gstreamer
wanted to buy such a license, both non-commercial and commercial use
of the software would be paid for.

Also see this page:

  Additionally, Gracenote and Thomson are offering unprecedented
  pricing to all developers. Non-commercial software developers can
  license a CDDB/mp3PRO decoding/mp3-encoding package on a
  royalty-free basis, and commercial applications will have access to
  royalty-free mp3PRO decoding.

MP3PRO is a superset of MP3; it supposedly decodes ordinary MP3 files
to produce identical output compared to an MP3 player.  So, if our
application is only doing output in MP3 (gnash), and the non-monetary
terms of this license aren't ridiculous, we should be able to get a
valid license for no money at all.  (Of course we would ignore the
CDDB half of the license; Gracenote is the scum of the earth.  They
took a GPL'd product, used it to collect information contributed by
thousands of end users, and then took that database of information
private.  And then they modified the over-the-net protocol, to force
developers to sign a license promising never to use any other
CD-information service.  Instead, developers switched to FreeDB, whose
database of user-contributed information is GPL'd.)


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