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whether there is a patent on MP3 decoding [was Re: Bug#65794: freeamp must go to non-free]

severity 65794 normal
severity 65796 normal
severity 65797 normal

On Sat, Jun 17, 2000 at 02:27:23PM +0200, Adrian Bunk wrote:
> freeamp is a MP3 decoder. Decoding of MP3s is patented.
> http://www.mp3licensing.com/royalty/swdec.html
> says about license fees for MP3 decoders:
>  mp3 Software Decoders/Players distributed free-of-charge via the Internet
>                        for personal use of end-users
>     No license fee is expected for desktop software mp3 decoders/players
>    that are distributed free-of-charge via the Internet for personal use
>                                of end-users.
> [you have to pay license fees in all other cases]
> This seems to conflict with the DFSG. freeamp must go to non-free

Actually, patent issues don't concern DFSG, the copyright/licensing issues
do. But yes, the packages would move to non-free...

I am not completely convinced that this is a real threat. There was no
threat for a lawsuit ever by the Fraunhofer or Thomson people against a free
MP3 decoder that we shipped (although yes, this can be a problem for those
CD vendors that make >10000 copies). The mp3licensing.com or
thomson-multimedia.com sites have no clear reference or text of a patent
that covers decoding. Rumour has it that decoding of MP3s is a simple
Fourier transform, and there's a prior art for that process which dates back
to the start of the century, so the patent wouldn't be valid, if it existed.

Until further investigation (i.e. until someone quotes a patent that our
free software packages infringe), let's downgrade the severity of these bug
reports below release-critical.

The debian-legal people should be able to tell us more about stuff on

Digital Electronic Being Intended for Assassination and Nullification

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