[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: MP3 decoder packaged with XMMS

Hi Dan,

> If IBM or some other well funded
> company that could defend itself from a patent threat wanted to
> redistribute the same programs you are choosing not to, they would
> not be violating the GPL in any sense.

...unless they licenced the patents from the patent holder?

> Patents can't last longer than 20 years.  So, any information that
> is that old is, by definition, prior art.

The applications for MP3 patents range from 1986 to 1997.

> Further, many patents 
> that may in fact be valid are nonetheless sufficiently narrow that
> functionally equivalent implementations are outside their scope.

According to reports from free software developers, it's difficult to 
create MP3 encoders without using technologies described by the 
patents. See for example:


> the GPL'd licensed code could be similarly
> designed around any such patents.

I think Gstreamer is under LGPL precisely because of the issue of 
linking to proprietary, patent-licenced libraries.

> Your point that there are implementations out there that you
> believe are non-infringing proves that these patents aren't as
> broad as you would believe them to be.

I'm not aware of any GPL'd MP3 software which is patent-licenced - and 
even if there was, it would have the Section 7 problem.

> > I know that the patent holder has actively enforced them in the
> > past, regarding the free software encoders - and could therefore
> > do so again.
> How do you know this?  Do you have evidence of such active
> enforcement (which may be better referred to as assertion, since
> the term enforcement gives too much credit to the legitimacy of the
> patent).

I'm referring to the cease and desist letters, and demands for annual 
minimum royalties, that went to free software developers in the late 
90's. All of the encoder projects went 'underground' at that point, 
and many of the distributions removed MP3-related packages. I'm not 
aware of anyone who was actually sued, but I don't want to be the 

> It is a list of possibly
> valid patents that their owner claims would cover MP3.  It proves
> neither that that they are valid or that they actually do cover
> MP3.  Only a court can make those conclusions.

You've seen the movie of Bleak House, right? :-)

> All
> I've said is that we should never assume a patent is indeed valid
> and infringed simply based on rhetoric and saber rattling and that
> the threat posed by patents can be managed with the assistance of
> counsel.  SFLC and PUBPAT are here to provide that counsel to the
> community on a pro bono basis.

I'm sure that free software multimedia developers could do with some 
help on these issues.

> we cannot represent your business, since it is for profit.

Absolutely, and I wouldn't expect otherwise. However there are 
not-for-profit groups of developers working in this area. 
http://xiph.org/ is one, http://linuxaudio.org/ is another (of which 
both 64 Studio and Xiph are members). 



Reply to: