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Re: MP3 decoder packaged with XMMS

Hi Dan,

> Patentees only win patent infringement cases 1/3 of the time, so it
> is not unreasonable to feel confident that a dispute would result
> favorably for the accused infringer.

A 2/3 chance of probable bankruptcy versus a 1/3 chance of certain 
bankruptcy. Not great odds!

> There is no such thing as
> being "obviously covered by ... [a] patent." 

In the case of MP3 I wouldn't like to rely on there being much prior 
art to find. The format dates back a long way, around 20 years.

> I'm not sure what businesses you are referring to when you say
> there will be serious reservations about redistributing free
> software. 

Potentially any working in multimedia. I note that the new Nokia web 
tablet, although Linux-based, uses the LGPL GStreamer libraries with 
the proprietary Fluendo plugins, which are designed specifically to 
work around the patent licensing problem:


> What evidence, and not just patentee statements or general fear and
> mis belief within the community, do you have that they have valid
> patents that cover the entirety of the standard?

I'm not in a position to declare that the patents are valid, but I 
know that the patent holder has actively enforced them in the past, 
regarding the free software encoders - and could therefore do so 
again. There's a list of patents on MP3 here:


I also find it hard to believe that the Xiph.org developers would have 
put many years of work into the Ogg codecs (Vorbis, Theora etc) on 
the basis of mere FUD.

> I would be happy 
> to analyze any such evidence for you.

That's appreciated! I think it would be great if the SFLC or the PPF 
could look into the issues surrounding multimedia formats. Debian has 
apparently decided not to ship a GPL'd MP3 encoder, and other 
distributions can't ship encoders or decoders.

While MP3 and other MPEG formats, including for video, remain de-facto 
standards, this creates a serious limitation on the usefulness of 
free software for media production and playback. It's all very well 
telling users to download the code 'off the internet somewhere' but 
many users, including in public-funded organisations such as schools 
or colleges, can't be expected to do that. 

> I find it unreasonable for any sophisticated patent holder to
> believe free software is non-commercial.

I'd expect them to figure out that suing Debian itself wouldn't be 



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