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Re: MP3 decoder packaged with XMMS

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:


If these opinions were formed without consulting an attorney, they are not legally competent. That's no offense to them, nor necessarily my opinion, but is instead the state of the law. Only patent attorneys are considered competent by the law to determine the scope of a patent. I wish this wasn't the case, and it disgusts me that it is, but there's little I can do to change the law.

As one example of how misleading patents can be, what patents describe and what they actually cover are almost always two different things, with the former being much larger than the latter.

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.

There is no Section 7 problem until one of two things happens: (a) a court enjoins distribution or (b) a distributor agrees to cease distribution. Neither of those scenarios is implicated here. Thus, no Section 7 issue whatsoever.

And, it is possible to receive a patent license that does not cause a failure to comply with Section 7. The GPL Section 7 says "For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, ..." Therefore, patent licenses which allow royalty-free redistribution are fine and do not trigger Section 7. Many such licenses have been granted, such as through standard setting bodies, and they can even be negotiated with a payment in upfront fees or minimum annual royalties when necessary. Thus, a patent license in and of itself does not create a Section 7 problem.

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).

Please feel free to pass along my contact info and encourage them to call or write anytime they have any legal issues on which they'd like some help. That's our mission and we're here to do it.


Daniel B. Ravicher
Legal Director
Software Freedom Law Center
1995 Broadway, 17th Fl.
New York, NY 10023
(212) 461-1902 direct
(212) 580-0800 main
(212) 580-0898 fax

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