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Re: MP3 decoder packaged with XMMS

On Tue, Jul 12, 2005 at 02:38:29AM -0700, Steve Langasek wrote:
> On Mon, Jul 11, 2005 at 01:45:24PM +0200, Diego Biurrun wrote:
> > On Mon, Jul 11, 2005 at 03:54:12AM -0700, Steve Langasek wrote:
> > > 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.  This is the standard Debian uses in deciding whether to
> > > distribute the software; Red Hat evidently uses a different standard.
> > Is that the standard Debian practise?  Is that in the policy somewhere?
> Debian policy governs the technical details of package creation.  This is a
> matter that's out of scope of the policy document; my comments reflect the
> de facto policy of the ftp team as I understand it.

Maybe it's time to create some sort of patent/ftp/XXX policy then.  The
core of this thread revolves around the problem that Debian's stance
towards patents is unclear and inconsistent.  Some programs are jugded
impossible to package due to patent problems, while others aren't.  This
is further complicated by the fact that some MP3 encoders and multimedia
applications are packaged while others are not, even though they do the
same things and thus fall under the scope of the same patents.

> > AFAICT Debian includes many packages that violate software patents, even
> > actively enforced ones.  It's simply impossible to avoid.  A very prominent
> > example is libts/libdca, where the developers closed the project due to
> > patent threats by DTC Inc.:
> > http://packages.debian.org/stable/libdevel/libdts-dev
> > http://developers.videolan.org/libdca.html
>   DTS Inc. claims that distributing this software is a violation of their
>   patent EP 864 146. At DTS Inc. request, we decided, as a precautionary
>   measure, to provisionally suspend the distribution of libdca while reviewing
>   DTS Inc. claim. This is not an acknowledgement of the validity of the claim.
>   The previous name "libdts" was changed to "libdca" as a precautionary
>   measure.
> So upstream hasn't even decided yet what to think of the patent claim,
> they've just taken things off-line as a precaution.  That's a rather weak
> precedent for "enforcement".

VideoLAN is hosted by ECP, a university from Paris where the project
originated.  DTS Inc. sent ECP a cease and desist letter stating that
they should stop developing libdts, get a patent license from them or
prepare to get sued.  The ECP lawyer tried to settle amicably without
success.  DTS requested fees amounting to thousands of dollars per day
and the university did not want to go to court.  That was more than one
year ago and libdts is no longer distributed on its own and has been
removed from VLC.  Furthermore development on the library has stopped.

That's as good a precedent for patent enforcement as you'll get.  FUD at
its best, but it worked.  This is how the patent scare works.


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