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Re: MP3 decoder packaged with XMMS

Hi Steve,

> patent-encumbered works cause problems whether they're shipped in
> non-free or in main.

Quite, but there is the issue of GPL section 7 making this particular 
library non-free. The patent licence terms for MP3 technology are 
very clear, even for free software decoders:


"Q: I have my own/third party mp3 software. Do I need a license?

A: Yes. Use of our patents is not related to a specific implementation 
of encoders and decoders, which means that a license under our 
patents is needed. "

GPL section 7 refers to "any other pertinent obligations", and I'd say 
that for a business operating in the USA or Europe, the patent system 
does create very pertinent obligations.

> However, the reason Debian continues to include the mp3 decoder
> library is that this patent, like so many other software patents,
> does not appear to be actively enforced.

I think the existence of the http://mp3licensing.com/ site shows that 
it is actively enforced. I can think of a couple of reasons why SPI 
may not have had a demand for payment yet. One is that this library 
is well hidden in the xmms package. Another may be the perception 
that the Debian project doesn't have any money, so isn't worth 

When a business or other organisation wants to redistribute Debian 
packages, it would be useful to be able to split off the sub-packages 
with known patent licensing problems. At the moment Debian doesn't 
offer a choice about MP3 support in xmms because of the way it is 
bundled in. Free software alternatives to MP3 do exist, in particular 
Ogg Vorbis, so xmms is still a useful package without MP3 support.   


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