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License grant for Open Source MP3 decoders?

Hi All, I just subscribed.

I have long been under the impression that there is a blanket license
grant for Open Source MP3 decoders, mainly because there are so many
of them.  For that reason I felt confident in adding MP3 playback by
integrating libmad into my GPL audio app Ogg Frog:


(Note that there is nothing to download yet, and won't be until Ogg
Frog reaches alpha.)

But just now I was emphatically told on the flac-dev list that that's
not the case.  Observe:


One would need to pay a minimum fee of $15,000 per year, and $0.75 per
unit shipped - that is, more than $15,000 whenever more than 20,000
units are shipped in a given year.

While Fraunhofer et. al. might be willing to overlook MP3 player
developers who code them just to scratch an itch, I have to be
*scrupulously* careful to obey the law where I live, which is in the
software-patent-enforcing US of A.  While not yet profitable, Ogg Frog
is a moneymaking business, and its website is a .com and not a .org.

I earn money through Google AdSense and affiliate sales, just a little
so far but I expect to earn much more once Ogg Frog ships.

Notably, the following Google search doesn't turn up any hits:


The following turns up just one, but the usage of "free software" on
that page is "free as in beer" and not "Free as in Freedom":


Unless someone can point out an Open Source or Free Software zero-cost
license grant, I'll have to remove MP3 playback from Ogg Frog.  Will
that be the case?

I know Fraunhofer has gone after lots of Open Source *encoder*
publishers; have they yet threatened any Open Source *decoder*
publishers?  If they haven't, could the legal principle of estoppel -
that is, failure to enforce their IP rights - be used to allow my use
of their patents?

Here is the thread from flac-dev:

Me, asserting that one can distribute an Open Source MP3 player:


Erik de Castro Lopo pointing out the above MP3 licensing page:


Me, pointing out that there are many Open Source MP3 players:


Erik replying that their publishers could be sued for royalties:


Thanks for any advice you can give me.

Michael David Crawford
mdcrawford at gmail dot com

   Enjoy my art, photography, music and writing at
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