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

AAC audio patent questions

Hi, I just subscribed.

I'm developing a Free Software application, Ogg Frog at http://www.oggfrog.com/ in which I would like to include support for playing and encoding AAC (MPEG-4, mp4 or m4a) audio. But the format has many patents, and I'm not able to find any mention of patent licenses for free players or encoders.

Yet VLC (http://www.videolan.org/) both plays and creates AAC files. Is this because there are no software patents where it is developed in France, because they have a license, or because there is an exception for Open Source software?

(I just asked on the vlc-devel list, but I'd like to also hear from debian-legal.)

In my research I found that the creator of FAAC, a free AAC encoder, was forced to take his binaries offline because Dolby complained he was infringing its patent.

I live in Canada. Canada has software patents, but not to the extent the US does. The official policy seems to be on this page:

Manual of Patent Office Practice
Chapter 16: Computer Implemented Inventions

The MPEG-4 Licensing FAQ says in one place that fees are due upon the "sale" of encoders or decoders, but in another place it says fees are due when they are "provided":


I looked at the fee schedule for AAC audio and I didn't see any exception for free or open source software.

Does it make a difference whether I provide just a player, or both a player and an encoder? I understand one must get a license to encode MP3s, for example, but not to play them.

I'm planning my first test release for a week or two from now. I'd like to support AAC, but I don't want to get sued! Please advise.

Mike Crawford

Reply to: