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Re: MP3 decoder packaged with XMMS

Hi Steve,

> We're certainly all well aware of the patents that are being
> enforced against mp3 encoders, and Debian does not ship any mp3
> encoders.

So it's OK for Debian users to 'consume content' in MP3 format but 
they can't make and distribute their own music in the same format? 
It's not really in the spirit of free software, particularly if you 
consider that an encoder is to an internet-using musician what a 
compiler is a to developer.   

> I'm actually not aware of *any* C&D's over mp3
> decoding/playing that have actually stuck

That's because it doesn't suit the patent holder's agenda to clamp 
down on the non-commercial distribution of decoders. It's more 
important to them that MP3 remains the de-facto standard among end 
users than that every single user pays up - and they know chasing 
Debian for payment probably won't be cost effective.

> the absence of some concrete support for the claim 
> that mp3 *players* are patent-encumbered.

I think Debian is in denial here. The claim comes from exactly the 
same patent holders that you have removed encoders to satisfy. They 
don't make the distinction between encoders and decoders you have, 
and "we've got away with it until now" is not a great legal defence. 
What if a commercial distributor of Debian code gets sued, then drags 
Debian and SPI into the case?  

It's our intention with 64 Studio to make free media formats, which is 
to say the Xiph.org formats plus a couple of others, the defaults. 
Proprietary, patent-encumbered formats should only be optional, if 
they are packaged at all.

I hope that Debian will adopt this principle in future - if not just 
to encourage adoption of the free formats, to protect itself and 
downstream redistributors better against patent infringement claims. 



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