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Re: OT: Media format patents and commercial installations



On Fri, 2006-05-26 at 08:00 +1000, David Timms wrote:
> Hi all,
> 
> I am interested in building FC5 based installations for commercial sale. 
> One of the requirements is the capability to play back media of as many 
> types as possible (eg using mplayer/xine/vlc). While Fedora core/extras 
> can't contain patent encumbered nor non-open source software, in general 
> terms is there anything to stop me selling such a box ?

The GPL.

If you include GPL software with patent issues (like lame), even if you
license the right to distribute - the GPL says you only have right to
distribute if everyone you distribute to also has right to distribute -
which is not the case in countries where software patents exist and are
enforced.

IE if I pay the mpeg consortium (or whatever they are called) for
license to distribute an mpeg2 decoder, the mpeg2 encoder I distribute
can not be GPL - and I believe (unless there is an exception clause) no
GPL software I distribute can use it.

If it does - I'm in violation of the GPL and therefore have no right to
distribute the work.

totem is GPL and I believe has an exception clause, so you could
distribute totem with licensed capabilities - software that is BSD or
LGPL I also believe is OK - but, for example, you can't have rhythmbox
as part of your distribution if you include an mp3 plugin (even the one
from fluendo) because it adds mp3 capability to rhythmbox, a GPL
product, which your customers are not allowed to freely redistribute
(because they haven't licensed the mp3 patents). Thus, you would be in
GPL violation (in the US anyway) to distribute rhythmbox with mp3
capabilities - and as such, have no right to distribute rhythmbox at all
(unless you got an alternate license from the rhythmbox developers, or
they change their license to like what totem has)

Maybe I'm wrong in that - but that's the way a GStreamer developer (I
believe Thomas, not positive) explained it to me.

Anyway - point is, if you are going to include non free software on a
Linux distribution - you have to be damned careful that you don't end up
in GPL violation.

There _are_ GPL zealots who specifically LOOK for such violations.

So be very careful. And write your political representatives begging
them to eliminate or greatly reduce the lifespan of software patents.

Software patents suck.


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