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Re: MP3 decoder packaged with XMMS

Hi Dan,

> > 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:
> Section 7 is very clear, "if ... conditions are imposed on you
> (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) ..."  Thus, absent
> a court order barring a particular practice or someone agreeing to
> not perform a particular practice, Section 7 is not triggered.

Section 7 uses the words 'otherwise'  and 'for any other reason', so 
it specifically includes situations other than court orders or 
agreements. Patent law imposes conditions (and penalties) on 
businesses even when there is no explicit agreement with the patent 

> Just because a patentee says you need a license does not either (1)
> make it true

That seems a little 'head in the sand'. The MP3 patent holders have a 
truckload of patents on the format in many countries, going back to 
the 1980s. I don't see how a business could distribute free software 
on the basis that if it came to a lawsuit for patent infringement, it 
could just deny that patent law applied. A lawsuit would destroy my 
start-up company, even if we won in court. 

> I fail to see what the "patent licensing problem" to which you
> refer.

It's simply that when code obviously covered by actively enforced 
patents is bundled with free software, business will have serious 
reservations about redistributing that free software. The ironic 
thing about this particular package is that Debian is usually 
regarded as being stricter on licensing issues, yet it is bundling 
libraries that other distributions feel they cannot. 

> The 
> most I can see here is a general threat made to the entire world.

In the area of multimedia, the MPEG related patents are a particular 
problem because the formats are de-facto standards - MP3 is just one 
of these.

> I am aware of no specific allegation being made against Debian.

Sure, but that's probably due to the perception that Debian and free 
software are non-commercial, and so aren't worth suing. As 
commercially successful products based on Debian emerge, that might 

Running a business based on free software, I have to consider all the 
potential threats to that business - and patent enforcement is one of 
them. It's my intention that we ship only free formats in the base 64 
Studio distribution, and if people want to use proprietary, 
patent-encumbered formats then that will be a (fully legal) 'optional 



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