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

On Sat, Jun 17, 2000 at 11:06:35PM +0200, Adrian Bunk wrote:
> > >  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
> The first point of the DFSG is:
>      Free Redistribution
>           The license of a Debian component may not restrict any party from
>           selling or giving away the software as a component of an
>           aggregate software distribution containing programs from several
>           different sources.  The license may not require a royalty or
>           other fee for such sale.
> If you read the text above: "distributed free-of-charge via the Internet"
> doesn't cover the distribution on a CD.

Yes, but it isn't "the license of a Debian component", it's an external
patent. So technically it's not the software that isn't Free Software, it's
some external condition that would make it move outside of main. (yeah,
"non-free" is a misnomer)

> > 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
> Until now there was no threat for a lawsuit, but if they want they can try
> it with EVERYONE who sells a CD - and if they want they can pick a very
> small one (I think of that there is currently someone in Germany who has a
> trademark on "webspace" and his lawyer sends letters that you must say you
> don't use that word again - and that you have to pay at about 1000,-
> Dollar for the lawyer who sent this letter. They always pick people /
> small companies that don't have the money for a long lawsuit.).

That's pure lunacy. Fortunately, Debian doesn't have to deal with it.

> > 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.
> >...
> I think these bugs are RC: Do you really want the risk of a lawsuit for
> everyone who sells a CD with main of Debian?

As I said above, we have yet to see a solid proof that they have something
against all this software. With KDE we had the two licenses to analyze, here
we just have lots of hot air.

I'm CC:ing this to Richard, the release manager, his opinion on whether
something is release-critical is final.

Digital Electronic Being Intended for Assassination and Nullification

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